“RACE:” SCRATCHING THE SKIN OF COLOR TO EXPOSE GUILT AND SHAME


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Recent newspaper headlines like the arrest of the head of the World Bank underscore the scandal when powerful men are accused of sexually deviant crimes.  Charles Strickland enjoys a wealthy lifestyle as a privileged white man in a society that acknowledges his status and position.  All that entitlement is put in jeopardy when he is accused of rape.

Wrap yourself in a legal enigma as playwright David Mamet sets up the contenders for justice in his powerful drama “RACE” rocking the foundations of TheaterWorks in Hartford until Sunday, July 10.

King Arthur’s Round Table never saw as much action and angst as the round table at the law offices of Lawson and Brown.  Strickland, a morally confused Jack Koenig, has engaged the firm to handle his case:  when an African-American woman, many years his junior, suddenly states he raped her after an assignation in a hotel room.  Strickland wavers between confessing and atoning, while all the while protesting his innocence.

What exactly is his crime?  Infidelity…since he is a married man.  Lying…since he promised her certain things and reneged.  Sexual force…since the act had been consensual in the past but wasn’t on this occasion.  Surrounding the legal questions is a blanket that cocoons all the issues in another layer of controversy:  the question of color.  Did Charles S   deliberately select a law firm with a black partner, played defiantly by Avery Glymph and a white partner portrayed strategically by R. Ward Duffy, to hedge his bets on acquittal?  What role does their young black associate (Taneisha Duggan) play in the balance of power and justice?

For tickets ($40-62.50, students $15 when available), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.  Come early to view the gallery of American Art in the lobby sponsored by Hartford Financial.

The Civil War and the question of slavery still seem to be issues of contention as prejudices over color boil to the surface in this confrontational drama.

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