l-r Craig Erickson, Marsha Regis, Kewsi Ameyaw,
Aaron Craven (photo credit: Shimon Karmel)
Mamet and His Buttons
by David C. Jones
Fresh off the grand silliness of The Government Inspector director David MacKay offers up a stark and heady racially-charged drama. No music – just lights up and down. There it is, deal with it.
Race by the always-incendiary David Mamet is a behind-closed-doors story about two lawyers (one black and one white) along with their ‘honors’ student’ (also black) who are asked to defend a rich white man accused of raping a black woman.
Mr. Mamet likes to push buttons and mocks smugness and righteousness – ironically by being pretty smug himself. He also knows how to twist and turn his plot so that at almost 10-minute intervals in the 80-minute play a new bombshell is dropped.
Liars and prejudice, blind faith and hypocrisy are the undoing of almost everyone. The lawyers are smart and calculating. “One can win any case, if one only takes cases one can win.” They declare that “Nobody cares if he is innocent” because of political correctness and racial guilt.
The cast propel the show along with layered performances that breathe fire. The accused, Craig Erickson, is red-eyed and lost as the rich guy that no one has ever said ‘no’ to before. Whether his weariness is because of guilt or confusion is up for debate. There are no easy answers in this play. Mr. Mamet stirs it up and says, “What do YOU think about that?”
There is the chemistry of long time partners between the two lawyers. They play off each other as they scheme and debate as they have been for years. Aaron Craven as Jack is smart, manipulative and you see each thought land on him. You also see self-loathing then scheming when a plan gone awry traps him. As the perhaps wiser partner Henry, Kwesi Ameyaw gives a thoughtful performance – the hint of a deliciously cruel smile when they think they have come up with a plan to win makes him wickedly fun to watch.
As their young protégée Susan, Marsha Regis is curious, naïve, vindictive and doubtful. As the story twists and turns with each new revelation her nuanced reactions are compelling.
The script has moments that feel a little like equal parts Speed The Plow and Oleanna so a few of the plot turns you can predict if you know those shows but who am I to talk about a Pulitzer Prize writer. I will just say, Wow! Mr. Mamet your twisty turny powerful shocking inflammatory reveals made for an electrifying show. Great direction and cast set it on fire! Race is riveting theatre!