BWW Reviews: Rep's Incendiary Production of RACE
In a season already packed with hits, the Rep smacks a home run with David Mamet's profanely brilliant play, Race. Managing to expound not only about race, but also on how the justice system works in some cases, Mamet produces a wonderfully provocative work that seems designed to have tongues wagging after the performance. A splendid cast and smart, incisive direction come together to produce a masterwork. This fast-paced and driving play never lets up for a minute, and leaves the audience with plenty to chew on afterward.
A law firm is reluctant to take on a rich, white client named Charles Strickland. He has allegedly raped a young black girl, although he maintains that the sex was consensual, and that, even though he's married, they're in love. He's already left one firm because he unwilling to bend to their guidance and will, and now he's landed at another one that just so happens to have a black lawyer on staff. Coincidence? But, white attorney, Jack Lawson, against the advice of black attorney, Henry Brown, has found what appears to be a lack of crucial evidence that could get their client off if played right. What happens next is a fascinating display that will have you mesmerized.
Mark Elliot Wilson is Charles Strickland, impeccably dressed (wardrobe by Myrna Colley-Lee) and quite indignant as to his claim of innocence. But something smells, and Wilson has a haughty presence, in spite of his self-righteous behavior, that plays just right for this work. Jeff Talbott is the wily Jack Lawson, who is initially, and understandably reluctant to take on the case, but when he finally does, thanks to a blunder by his apprentice, Susan, neatly essayed by Zoey Martinson, he dissects every bit of testimony and evidence in an effort to allow Strickland to walk free. Morocco Omari is Henry Brown, who doesn't like the odds the case presents, and harbors an intense dislike for Susan. Omari and Talbott are both given lines that are absolute gems, and both know what to do with them to make them pay off. Martinson seems tentative at first, but when she rises to the occasion, we realize her guile and intelligence have been clearly underestimated.
Director Timothy Near does an exceptional job bringing this incendiary bomb to the stage with such wit and grace. Mamet provides a terrific blueprint, but it's up to the entire team to pull it off, and they do. John Ezell's scenic design is a modern marvel, and the clear plexiglass walls of the law office are a clever touch that allows us to see characters come and go. Rusty Wandall's sound design is also appealing and sets the mood for each scene in fine fashion. Brian Sidney Bembridge's lighting scheme keeps the action clear and in focus throughout.
The Rep continues their streak of winners with Race, expertly delivering the goods with considerable style and aplomb. This is not only a “must-see”, but a “must-talk about”, as well.
Race continues through March 4, 2012 at the Loretto Hilton. Don't miss it.