Monday, January 25, 2010

Race (The SOB Review)

Race (The SOB Review) - Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York City, New York

*1/2 (out of ****)

Rarely in my decades of theatregoing have I been as absolutely repulsed or so thoroughly infuriated by a play as I have been by the incendiary polemics embodied within David Mamet's Race.

Not since Avenue Q has everyone been called just a little bit racist. Ever the provocateur, Mamet has raised the stakes exponentially in this racially-infused drama about a wealthy white man (a limp, miscast Richard Thomas) accused of raping an African-American woman and the ensuing behind-the-scenes legal wrangling (and accompanying hand-wringing) by his mixed race defense team consisting of Jack (James Spader), Henry (David Alan Grier) and Susan (an ineffectual Kerry Washington).

While both Spader and Grier acquit themselves with solid performances, their characters' diatribes are guilty of making the same sort of sweeping generalizations you might have expected a couple generations ago. By virtually ridiculing any progress America has made in improving race relations, Mamet effectively sets the clock back on what has been achieved by suggesting it's been completely specious. It's a disgrace and one in which I wanted to stand up and shout to Spader that his jerk of an attorney didn't speak for me or any of my friends.

How dare David Mamet lob this provocative time-warped bomb on us? Can't we all just get along? I dare say, most of us already are. But I would remind Mamet that when you're busy pointing your finger at your audience, there are always three pointing right back at you.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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At 06 June, 2010, Blogger Esther said...

I could not believe Mamet's cynicism, basically doubting that white and black Americans will ever understand or trust each other. He's writing about race as if the O.J. Simpson trial happened yesterday instead of in 1995, and we haven't elected an African-American president.

I thought the dialogue was unrealistic, totally unlike any discussion about race that I've ever had. And I've had plenty of lengthy, impassioned discussions with friends - black and white. His characters aren't compelling. They're making speeches.

The only interesting part was hearing Spader's character talk about how lawyers manipulate juries, how it's as much about psychology as it is about evidence. But nothing we haven't heard before.

And as much as I loved Richard Thomas in The Waltons when I was a kid, I was really disappointed by his performance. Sigh. I still have my childhood crush on John-boy!


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