Race by David Mamet
January 22, 2012 at the Goodman Theatre.
Race is about, well, race.
The play, which opened recently at the Goodman Theatre, takes place in today’s world, showing that even hundreds of years after slavery and the civil rights movement race is still a problem. Yet, few people talk about it, but two very bold lawyers, Jack Lawson and Henry Brown. Lawson and Brown approach the subject of race fiercely and bluntly. The conversations that Henry Brown, a black man, starts about race are intense truths that make you think and almost squirm in your seat at the reality of racism today.
The play starts with Charles Strickland, a successful white business man, walking into the office of Lawson and Brown. Charles has allegedly committed the crime of rape. According to the lawyers this might not have been as big a problem, but she’s black. The case sparks racial comments from Brown about how the world sees the case. The Lawyers are deciding if they should take the case or not when a twist of fate leads them to becoming the attorneys of record for Mr. Strickland. The play is full of twists and turns and at the end the question of innocent or guilty will permeate through your mind.
The entire play takes place in the office of Lawson and Brown. The setting was suitable for the play. The setting allowed us to see a microcosm of our world. Sometimes we don’t see the problems in our world till we step out and watch. Race allows you to see how racism affects many aspects of our world. The sound effects were perfect, at the end of a scene a character would say something quick and snippy and there would be a sound effect to go along with the joke. The setting was real enough so that you knew it was a Lawyer’s office but not at all distracting. The staging kept the focus on the lines and the actors saying them.
The actors were great there was a small cast but that was all that was needed. The small cast of four will leave you trading sides every couple of lines. An office full of lawyers makes it hard to pick a side. The actors were natural and held my attention the entire time. Geoffrey Owens, who plays Henry brown should consider a career as a lawyer, not only were the statements made convincing but the intensity of his voice when he said them added to the truth of the statement.
At the end of the play I couldn’t decide if Mr. Strickland was innocent or guilty. Part of me believed that he was innocent, that he did nothing wrong. The other part of me believed that he thought because he had money he do whatever he pleased and get away with it. I think that the part of me that wants to believe he is innocent is that little part of me that believes that everyone is good in the inside. At the end of the play ask yourself is he innocent or guilty?