‘Race’ – You’ll Be Dying to Know

[from Liz Smith]

THE PLAYWRIGHT David Mamet is not someone whose work I ever want to miss. His kind of cynical wisdom onstage in his serious plays never fails to draw shocked laughter from the audience that can dissect the wisdom in his contempt. I think, for instance, that the very profane and shocking language of “Glengarry Glen Ross” turns that play into an American masterpiece. It’s like listening to perfect serious music.

And while I didn’t much like his out-and-out comedy spoof of the Bush presidency, titled “November,” which starred the talented Nathan Lane, I am very taken with his serious dramas. So I was late getting to his latest at the Ethel Barrymore Theater. “Race,” which Mamet directed, had already lost three of its major actors retaining only the popular Richard Thomas and adding new shocks in the persons of Eddie Izzard, Dennis Haysbert and the dazzling leading lady, Afton C. Williamson.

“Race” says it all, taking race relations to a new high (or is it a new low?). The setting is the big conference room of a law office. The client is a wealthy, white, spoiled WASP, a man to whom nobody has ever said “No!”

The play opens with two partners, Izzard and Haysbert, trying to talk this rich client out of their representing him, trying to show him that he’ll probably be found guilty of raping a black woman and that he most likely can’t win. Izzard is his quirky self, off-hand, brilliant and shrewd. Haysbert is large, forbidding, dispassionately full of hatred, elegance and contempt.

Interestingly enough, though, the play functions on the question of race; these two partners, one white, one black, never tell us anything much about their relationship to one another. They are simply out to win, to make money, to dash the competition – and they are as one – in looking down on intelligences other than their own, very sure of themselves. Their gorgeous law clerk, Ms. Williamson, seems to be a match for both of them.

You’ll be dying to know what happens in “Race.” Who wins, who loses, who forces who into a corner! All the most corrupt factions of what you love in “Law & Order” are here in this, the law part. It’s fascinating.

I thought the four actors were all splendid, Mr. Haysbert, who is familiar to us on TV as the president in “24,” makes his stage debut … Mr. Izzard, who keeps burying the fact that he is such a great actor under his comic façade, is irresistible as the partner-bastard. (Maybe you saw him in the offbeat series drama about white gypsies in America – “The Riches.” Unbelievably good!) Ms. Williamson is a find; great to look at, queenly and imperious in her intelligence – and in her morals too. But I was really overwhelmed by the considerable talents of Richard Thomas. The Playbill says this TV idol from the long-ago “Waltons” has been on Broadway for 51 years! Here, his rich man is a masterful, prissy, self-contained, confused, conflicted, well-tailored mess. It is quite a portrait.

“Race” is another riveting David Mamet play, full of horrible laughs, guilt, truths, pragmatism run wild and a shocking ending. Don’t miss it.

And I really mean – don’t miss it! This fabulous show closes on August 21. Run – don’t walk – for tickets.

Written by Momo in: Race Reviews |

On Ellis Island, a Kinship With the Huddled Masses

[from nytimes.com]

ON a breezy, clear summer morning, Eddie Izzard — the British actor, comedian, transvestite and aspiring politician — took a trip to Ellis Island. He’d wanted to go ever since he first set a stiletto-heeled foot in this country in the 1990s, but never got around to it.

“I would have absolutely been one of those people who got on the boat to the New World,” said the goateed Mr. Izzard, 48, who is starring on Broadway in David Mamet’s “Race,” and whose documentary about his life, “Believe,” was just nominated for an Emmy. “And if they didn’t let me in, I would have jumped overboard.”

This time, Mr. Izzard, who is spending the summer in New York during his Broadway stint, was determined to see the centerpiece of American immigration, which is why he was on a late-morning ferry, slathering sunblock on his neck and savoring the skyline. He had traded his girlie wear for black jeans, boots, blue blazer and sunglasses, and wore only a hint of foundation on his face. Not that he looked like he’d just stepped out of the Nebraska cornfields; still, for the moment anyway, he might have been just another tourist taking iPhone shots of the Statue of Liberty.

“Funny that France gave that to the United States,” he said, admiring the statue. “What did the U.S. give them in return?”

It was a good question. But then, most of Mr. Izzard’s observations are dead-on. That is a large part of his acclaim; he’s known for his political and historical humor, for his accents and mimicry, for leapfrogging from topic A to topic Q, for being, as John Cleese once anointed him, the “Lost Python.”

He is also known for his social conscience (he has raised more than $400,000 for a British charity) and his athleticism. He is a marathon runner and is contemplating triathlons (“Animals in the wild are lean, and I think we should be, too”).

He speaks and performs stand-up routines in German and French (he uses the A.T.M. in French “to keep my brain working) and is planning to learn Russian.

And his politics are passionate; earlier this year, Mr. Izzard, who is a Social Democrat, voraciously campaigned for the Labour Party across England, Scotland and Wales. He plans on running — “standing,” in British parlance — for mayor of London or a seat in Parliament “sometime around 2020, if not bang-on.”

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more engaged visitor on the 27.5-acre island; he wanted to see and do everything. “We’re here, we might as well,” he said, slipping a headset over his ears. “Look at that,” he said, reading a display. “Those in first class were allowed to walk right off the ship. Those in steerage were stopped. I never knew that.”

He wandered up the stairs and into the Great Hall, the soccer-field-size room where new immigrants waited for admittance into the country. Mr. Izzard, who was born in Yemen and raised in Northern Ireland and England, moved from exhibit to exhibit, taking in everything: a gurney (“in England we call that a trailer”), a buttonhook used to inspect eyes for infections like trachoma.

He glanced at a manifest of impossible-to-pronounce last names. “This would be a funny bit,” he said. He pantomimed an immigration officer holding a clipboard. “Here we are at Ellis Island. ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Smith.’ ‘What?’ ‘Smith.’ ‘Again?’ ‘Smith.’ ‘O.K.— Yacjgdaw.’ ‘You?’ ‘Jones.’ ‘What?’ ‘Jones.’ ‘Wazinskawnsky.’ It’s the reversal.”

Every so often a fan approached. “Aren’t you that bloke who did all those marathons?” “I love you in ‘The Riches’!” “ ‘Dress to Kill’ is my favorite!”

Mr. Izzard was polite, asking their names, where they were from, posing for pictures. Still, he seemed slightly hesitant, as if he were embarrassed by the attention — odd for a guy whose iPhone screen saver is a shot of himself in heavy makeup, a sparkly shirt and elbow-length black gloves.

When a reporter suggested his fans see him on Broadway, he demurred. “They only have a few days — go see a big musical like ‘Billy Elliot,’ ” he said. “If you have more time, see my show.”

After a while, he abandoned the audio tour — it was difficult to follow, the walkways weren’t well marked — and latched on to a group tour with Jesse Ponz, a park ranger. Mr. Ponz explained the history, pointing to the medical facilities where those who were refused admittance were kept, as he led his charges through the bowels of one building and into another. Mr. Izzard was rapt.

“Did people escape?” he asked, nodding toward New York Harbor.

“We’ve heard of that,” Mr. Ponz said. “But the current was pretty strong.”

“It’s like Alcatraz,” Mr. Izzard said. “People said you couldn’t swim, but now they have an Alcatraz triathlon.”

A woman piped up. Actually, she said, prisoners in Alcatraz were allowed to shower with hot water so they wouldn’t acclimate to the cold water.

“Did you hear that?” Mr. Izzard said later. He was almost glowing. “You never know what you’re going to learn. That group was exactly like the people who came over here. A mix of everybody.”

At the end of the tour, Mr. Izzard thanked Mr. Ponz, who, as it happened, is a great fan. He offered to take Mr. Izzard around privately, and Mr. Izzard happily accepted. As they wandered around the museum, the two men debated the merits of disco versus punk, the War of 1812, Winston Churchill (Mr. Izzard, who is dyslexic, is listening to a Max Hastings Churchill biography), capitalism and immigration.

“I don’t know what it’s like in the U.S., but immigrants in the U.K. do the jobs the citizens won’t do,” Mr. Izzard said.

Five hours later, Mr. Izzard was heading back to Manhattan, with a little less than 120 minutes to spare before he had to be on stage.

“I do find history fascinating, I find people fascinating, and I’m quite good at standing somewhere and taking out all the new stuff and imagining people coming in,” he said, looking at the city unfold before him. “And I would have been with them.”

Written by Momo in: Interview,Race |

Old Interview…New Footage

[thanks Jean]

This interview was done in the Netherlands during Stripped featuring some nice behind the scenes footage.

Written by Momo in: Interview,Tour,video |

NY1 Theater Review: “Race”

[from brooklyn.ny1.com]

Credit David Mamet and a slick production for the success of “Race,” a thin play that’s run a lot longer than I expected. While the drama still disappoints, a cast change adds a nice shot of adrenaline to a show that’s nearing the finish line.

“Race” is intended to be a highly provocative riff on the controversial topic of racial dynamics. But David Mamet offers no insights and instead manages to reinforce a bunch of stereotypes centering on not only race but gender, lawyers and privileged rich people.

Still, Mamet, who also directed, is a pro. While the work is intellectually flawed, he certainly knows how to keep an audience entertained. His signature staccato rhythms featuring tons of profanity-laced dialogue is very much in place, and it’s titillating to hear such toxic language.

Eddie Izzard, taking over for James Spader, plays attorney Jack Lawson, who’s trying to decide whether to take the case of a wealthy white businessman accused of raping a black woman. Lawson’s partner, Henry Brown, is now being played by Dennis Haysbert, replacing David Alan Grier.

The casting is a plus for the most part, adding dimension to the characters. Haysbert, who seemed to struggle a bit with his lines, is a commanding presence and his interpretation reveals Henry to be less a bigoted reactionary than a jaded cynic.

Afton C. Williamson in the sketchy role of a young associate adds more credibility than Kerry Washington.

Richard Thomas, continuing as the accused rapist, still can’t do much with a confounding part.

Izzard delivers an intelligent performance, turning Jack more human and visibly conflicted. What was a single-minded opportunist in the original company is still a shark but one with a more pronounced conscience and a sliver of a heart.

“Race” remains one of Mamet’s lesser plays, but thanks to a company that brings new shades to the work, it’s not quite so black and white anymore.


Written by Momo in: Race Reviews,video |

Eddie on Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night (July 12)

(thanks Barb!)

Written by Momo in: video |

Comic Relief: Eddie Izzard on Broadway

[from Playbill.com]

Eddie Izzard takes a break from stand-up (and high heels) and gets serious in Race.

The last time many of us saw Eddie Izzard, he was dressed to kill: in a cheongsam, or perhaps a bustier and leather mini, smudged eyeliner and deep berry lipstick, teetering about in spike-heeled dominatrix boots and riffing on such subjects as frumpy English queens and Christopher Walken (Izzard doing Walken doing Shakespeare is absurdly funny — and available on YouTube). Currently, however, he’s in legal-eagle mode, suited up as “warhorse” lawyer Jack Lawson, banging on about sex and lies in David Mamet’s hot-button Broadway play Race.

At first, it may look strange — seeing the self-described “British European,” cross-dressing comic on stage at the Barrymore Theatre pontificating about a red sequined dress which may or may not have been ripped off by his alleged rapist client (Richard Thomas) — as opposed to, you know, wearing a red sequined dress. But Izzard has always been drawn to weighty stage roles — the dad of a brain-damaged daughter in Broadway’s A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (2003), troubled ’60s comic Lenny Bruce in the West End revival of Lenny (1999)…dating all the way back to 1994, when he played a creepy gay enigma in the world premiere of Mamet’s The Cryptogram. (On picking Mamet for his first professional stage production: “Well, I’m a transvestite who runs marathons, so I haven’t been known to be a shrinking violet.”)

“I’m looking for drama that’s going to stretch me. It can have comedy in it, but it has to be dry or weird or twisted,” he explains. “And I’m not all about theatre.” Indeed: His respectable list of screen credits includes Ocean’s Twelve and “Thirteen,” “Across the Universe” and “Valkyrie;” and in 2007–08, he starred in the FX original series “The Riches.” “Drama and film and television,” he ticks off, then adding — lest we forget — “and then I do stand-up around the world as well.” Right, and in 2009 he ran 43 marathons in 51 days across the U.K. to raise funds for Sport Relief.

“I seem to have the ability to apply myself to wherever I feel I want to go,” he says. “I seem to have gotten quite good at stand-up.” Selling out Madison Square Garden in January would seem to prove that. “And I couldn’t do stand-up to save my life when I started. It was a year and a half between the first two gigs. My drama ability started off and it wasn’t terribly good; I’ve developed that.” See: a 2003 Tony nomination.

His next challenge? Politics. “I’m standing for election in ten years’ time in the U.K.,” reveals Izzard, who recently finished a 25-city campaign on behalf of the Labour Party. “Socially progressive people make the world move forward.”

And of his ten-year plan, well, “I’m going to have to shoot the career in the head — or put it into deep hibernation,” he reasons.

“I have a fine wine approach — I get better over years,” says the 48-year-old actor. So by the time he’s, say, 80… “I should be on top of my game!”

Written by Momo in: Race |

Believe Emmy nomination!

Believe has been nominated for an Emmy award in the category of Outstanding Nonfiction Special at the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards 2010.


Written by Momo in: News |

Eddie Izzard on Broadway play about racism

[from the BBC]

Eddie Izzard explains what attracted to him to starring in a Broadway play about racism.

David Mamet decided to write the play, Race, after spending time in Iraq.

Izzard is appearing alongside Dennis Haysbert, who is making his Broadway debut after starring in the hit telvision show, 24.

They discussed the main themes of the new production.


Written by Momo in: Interview,Race |

Eddie Izzard Speaks Perfect American in Mamet’s Recast `Race’: John Simon

[from Bloomberg.com]

David Mamet’s “Race” continues its successful Broadway run with three new actors out of four, including Britain’s Eddie Izzard, better known for his comic monologues.

Richard Thomas, as Charles Strickland, a married billionaire accused of raping a young black woman in a hotel room, is the sole holdover from the original cast.

The law firm to which Charles has shifted his case consists of a white lawyer, Jack Lawson (Izzard), and a black one, Henry Brown (Dennis Haysbert), and a recent hire, Susan (no last name), an attractive young black associate (Afton C. Williamson). Charles has left his previous lawyer, a Jew, because of the more favorable impression a mixed-race team presumably would make on a jury.

Charles insists on his innocence. The two experienced lawyers have their doubts and Susan is convinced that he is guilty for reasons best known to herself. But do the facts of the case, whatever they are, matter? As cynical Jack puts it, “There are no facts of the case. There are two fictions which the opposing teams seek to impress on the jury.”

This wouldn’t be a Mamet play if sex and sexual politics didn’t play a role. More important, however, is how questions of race might influence not only judge and jury but the proposed defense lawyers, who may seem racists if they win the case, incompetent if they lose it.

There are revelations and counterrevelations galore and everything doesn’t always come across as logical, even as the dialogue is often a bit too cutely epigrammatic. Mamet, to be sure, has two modes: the naturalistic one, in which speech is often pause-riddled, stammering, barely coherent; and the comic one, in which people are smarter, swifter, wittier than they would be in real life.

Minor Climaxes

“Race” dances on the cusp between the two modes. Mamet has also directed, keeping the characters moving around aptly, and the tempo cleverly building to minor climaxes.

Izzard, though English, manages to sound, first of all, perfectly American. He does not have the boyish charm of James Spader, who originated the role, but this works well, giving Jack more of the apposite old-fox quality. We can even wonder whether Susan’s youth and good looks affect him more than they would a younger man.

Haysbert, taller, more formidable, more sardonic and even slightly menacing, is more effective than the original cast’s David Alan Grier — this despite the fact that Haysbert’s diction is somewhat less clear.

Williamson is not unlike the original Susan, guarded and provocative, and perhaps a trifle sexier than was Kerry Washington, albeit with a voice that takes a bit of getting used to.

The play has lost nothing by recasting, which cannot always be claimed for long runs. And whatever flaws it may have, it decidedly holds our interest even if in some minor ways we may feel cheated.

Through Aug. 21 at Barrymore Theater, 243 W. 47th St. Tickets: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com.

Rating: ***

Written by Momo in: Race Reviews |

Haysbert Izzard tackle ‘Race’ on and off stage

[from yahoo news]

NEW YORK – Eddie Izzard finds it bizarre that no one has ever gone to war over eye color.

“It’s probably because you can’t actually see the eyes until you’re about here,” he says while gesturing with his hand next to his face. “So that would make it impractical.”

Izzard laughs, but is serious about what prompted the comment: the delicate topic of race. Now he gets to explore it eight times a week on Broadway in the appropriately titled David Mamet play, “Race.”

Dennis Haysbert, who played the President of the United States on “24,” makes his Broadway debut, replacing the Tony-nominated David Alan Grier as Henry Brown.

Izzard, no stranger to Mamet (he originated the role of Del in the 1994 London production of “The Cryptogram”), takes over the James Spader role of Jack Lawson. And Izzard admits to being a little intimidated following Spader.

“Race” concerns black and white law firm partners and their associate (played by Afton C. Williams, who replaced Kerry Washington) debate the merits of representing a wealthy white client accused of raping a young black woman. The play tackles the subject from various perspectives, including each attorney’s view on ethnicity, public perception and the media’s influence.

“I think David put his finger on the pulse of what race is in this country,” Haysbert said.

As a result, the audience response changes nightly. And that comes as no surprise to Haysbert. Perspective in the matter depends on where you come from, and that extends to the other side of the Atlantic where Izzard hails.

According to Haysbert, tension between blacks and whites in America comes mostly from slavery but takes on a different hue in England.

“It’s about nationality,” he says. “They have a lot of Pakistani; they have Indian and people from different countries.”

But Izzard doesn’t completely agree with the distinction.

“That is more where the hot button issue of racism comes from. But I still think it ends up in the same place,” Izzard said. “We got rid of slavery only 50 years before America did.”

Regardless of the cause and the sprawl of race-related issues around the world, Izzard thinks the problem may be narrowing. He cites the election of Barack Obama as America’s first African-American president as a step in the right direction.

But that’s not enough, says Izzard, who dreams of a world reminiscent to how the astronauts viewed Earth from space.

“They saw no frontiers or borders,” he says.

“If people come from another planet, they’ll say, ‘You’re all humans.’ And are we going to say, ‘Oh no. He’s a black man. He’s a white man. This man’s an Asian.’

“No,” he says. “It’s just all human.”

Written by Momo in: Interview,Race |


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