On Trial – By Marisa Spiegel

May 21, 2012 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

Upon your entrance to the Goodman Theatre, you are deemed a member of an audience, but as you cross the threshold into the Albert Theatre, you become a juror. This is no ordinary case of jury duty, for you are sitting in on the most important of trials: a trial of prejudices, societal norms, civil rights and human nature (the playwright, David Mamet, certainly embraces the American’s right to a speedy trial).

Race revolves around two lawyers: one black (Henry Brown, played by Geoffrey Owens), one white (Jack Lawson, played by Mark Grapey), the white man’s black intern (Susan, played by Tamberla Perry), and a rich, white man (Charles Strickland, played by Patrick Clear) on trial for the rape of a black woman about 20 years his junior. The play takes place in the office of Brown and Lawson juxtaposing with the fast paced and sharp-witted dialog. You as the jury must cling on to every word out of every characters mouth, no matter how profane, in order to justly judge this trial.

This play involves much thought. You hear things you don’t want to hear and you must keep your snap judgments at bay. Arguably though, it is not the jury who thinking most, but the actors upon the stage. The performances of all four actors are riveting. Goosebumps will mirror the powerful rise of Owens’ voice as Grapey’s sharp tone makes you shiver in your seat.

Race is one of the most important civil rights plays of our time. It can only be described as powerful; for Mamet has thrown out the “race rulebook” and instead faces race with a blunt attitude you have probably never heard used on the subject. In the end it is up to you to decide the verdicts of each character on the stage, as well as the human race. This play requires your utmost attention, for this trial there will never, truly, be a right answer.