The Ridgelea Reports on Theatre
Mamet’s “RACE” at Theaterworks Hartford
By Tom Nissley
Because of a vacation schedule, I arranged to see “RACE” in its last preview performance. It’s a heavy hitter. A wealthy (and married) white businessman, accused of rape by a black woman who wore a red sequin dress, visits a law firm consisting of two men – one black, one white – and their black woman associate. The play shows the process of their determining how to protect him from a jury, if they take his case. It’s going to provide a violent shock to the senses of any audience member, somewhere during the performance, so be warned, but unless you’re really squeamish, don’t stay away. The play and the production, directed by Tazewell Thompson, are electric. It is unlikely that you’ll doze.
Mamet’s characters include Henry Brown (Avery Glymph), the black partner, who plays in some respects the bad cop role), countered by the white partner, Jack Lawson (R. Ward Duffy), who meliorates in the good cop role, when interviewing Charles Strickland (Jack Koenig). And Susan (Taneisha Duggan), is a young black attorney who challenges her bosses’ process inside the firm.
Mamet’s script calls for a lot of side-stepping conversations: hemming and hawing in response to straight questions. Sarah’s confrontation of Jack Lawson reminds us of the plot in “Oleanna.” And you will look carefully into your own experience with diversity as you watch “RACE” unfold. Tazewell Thompson’s direction is impeccable, and the performance of each of the actors is carefully wrought.
Sets, costumes, lights, and sound each add to a production well done.
“RACE” plays through July 10. Information and tickets are found at www.theaterworkshartford.org.
Tom Nissley, for the Ridgelea Reports on Theater (June 11, 2011)
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre