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 |

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