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David Mamet's "RACE" at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre
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David Mamet's "RACE" at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

RACE

Written and Directed by David Mamet
(David Mamet Bio)

At
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street
212.239.6200

Starring:
James Spader, David Alan Grier, Kerry Washington
And Richard Thomas

Scenic Design: Santo Loquasto
Costume Design: Tom Broecker
Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt
Casting: Telsey + Company
Production Stage Manager: Matthew Silver
Technical Supervision: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Company Manager: Bruce Klinger
General Management: Richards/Climan, Inc.
Press Representative:
Jeffrey Richards Associates/Irene Gandy/Alana Karpoff
Assoc. Producer: Jeremy Scott Blaustein


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 15, 2009


Arriving at a David Mamet play, I anticipate gripping tension, fascinating twists, and mesmerizing performances, such as this season’s Oleanna, and previous productions of Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow (2 casts), and November. In fact, Mamet’s American Buffalo was also recently reviewed in this magazine from Chicago. In typical design, the setting of RACE was an office, furnished in Santo Loquasto’s distinguished design, a law office this time. Law partners, Jack Lawson, (James Spader) and Henry Brown, (David Alan Grier), plus a new member of the firm, Susan, (Kerry Washington), side-lined and silent early on, banter in fast-paced, gutter-adorned legalese, about a new case, involving rape or consensual sex, depending on the number of red sequins that may have been found on a hotel room floor. That is, did the lady carefully undress, or did the lady have her dress ripped off. Thus, the focus on the sequins.

This central concept, surrounding the dress, was the lawyers’ scheme to win a media-driven case that would spotlight the firm and increase prosperity. This central concept was also in favor of their white male client and against the claims of the black female plaintiff. The partners, Jack and Henry, are white and black, respectively, with Susan, a young black female, not fully trusted on this case. The client, Charles Strickland (Richard Thomas), is not trusted, either, as he seems weak-willed, not combative, ready to take the hit. A ruse is devised, where Susan, a shapely figure, is forced to model a similar dress, so the lawyers can practice using her as a prop in the upcoming trial.

In Act II, each character transforms, but only a bit. See the opening lines to this review. RACE was not gripping, fascinating, or mesmerizing. But, two performances did provide engaging gestures, wit, and charisma. James Spader and David Alan Grier were both entrenched in the roles and credibly enthralling. In fact, they became two callous, clever, conceited lawyers to such an extent that the audience could have been sitting at the edge of their office, instead of the edge of the stage. Mr. Spader was flawless in posture, mannerisms, delivery, and enacted intent. Mr. Grier was drawn into his partner’s argument with visible trust and tension.. In contrast, Kerry Washington, as Susan, was passive in Act I to the point of invisibility. Her big dramatic opportunity in Act II lacked persuasion and depth. It was sharp, but not complex. Richard Thomas, as well, lacked persona and interest. Neither Ms. Washington nor Mr. Thomas projected to my seat.

What seemed incredible, was that Mr. Mamet was his own Director here, and I expected more electricity in this small ensemble. Yet, RACE is a play that should be staged again soon, perhaps on the small stage, as its dialogue has much to ponder. A new production offers new opportunities for cohesive success.



Courtesy of Jeffrey Richards Associates




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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net