In the interest of full disclosure, it must be said that I am not a fan of the playwright David Mamet. Nor am I a fan of his trademark brand of language, “Mametspeak” (the so-called language of the people).
I once mentioned this in a classroom filled with hip theater students and was immediately vilified. Oh, well. Nevertheless, I found Capital Repertory Theatre’s production of “Race” entertaining.
A wealthy white man, Charles Strickland (Wynn Harmon), has been accused of raping a black woman. He seeks the help of hotshot defense attorneys Henry Brown (Kevin Craig West) and Jack Lawson (J. Anthony Crane) and their Ivy League-educated law clerk Susan (Shelley Thomas). Brown and Susan are black and Lawson is white.
Strickland has come to them because he believes their racial diversity will help his case. Circumstances, accidental or purposeful, force them to take the case. As they argue its merits and lack thereof, the truth of the matter becomes deeply personal.
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Through Feb. 10; performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. Jan. 23 and 30
HOW MUCH: $65-$16
MORE INFO: 445-SHOW, www.capitalrep.org
Staying on track
In true Mamet fashion, the dialogue, which begins with an adversarial eruption, becomes invidious, punctuated with F-bombs and explosive. Mamet tosses every scurrilous racial stereotype into the mix and adds some that you and I may not have thought of. He tells us that hatred, fear and envy rule the racial divide.
For Gazette theater writer Bill Buell's preview of this show, click here.
There is plenty of repetition (as if maybe we didn’t get it the first or even the second time) and the playwright takes his story off on unexpected and perhaps unnecessary tangents.
Still, the actors and director, Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, keep this fast-moving locomotive on the track. If the play is a bit broadly acted, that is as it should be. It is, after all, a parable (a dense parable to be sure), expressing a deep moral attitude.
West fares beautifully. His acting is committed and nuanced. He taps into some deeply rooted assumptions but never allows them to overwhelm the character. Crane embodies the hip-shooting, wise-cracking lawyer of one’s darkest and ugliest imagination and Harmon’s billionaire is haughty, smug and, we discover, desperately guilt-ridden.
Thomas plays Susan a bit too primly. I would have appreciated a layer that told me she was capable of the disloyalty of which she is accused.
Just the right look
I have not been in many lawyers’ offices, but the set by Ken Goldstein caught, exactly, my idea of a proper legal office — with thousands of neatly aligned volumes of law books. And lighting by Deborah Constantine is wonderful for its bare-knuckled lack of comfort. There are no secrets in this office.
Even if you share my Mamet aversion, you may well enjoy this production.