David Mamet’s Race is a fast-paced and exhilarating drama about a pair of interracial lawyers who must decide whether or not to defend a man charged with rape. The dilemma? The man being charged is wealthy and white, and we learn the woman is an African American prostitute. Obviously, at first thought and in today’s society, it doesn’t seem this would be such an issue, but as the play develops we discover the many layers to today’s racial prejudices.
The Goodman Theater has done an exquisite job in presenting this play, as the lighting, set, and music were all balanced and complemented the story well; however, it was once again the acting that stood out. Marc Grapey played white lawyer Jack Lawson and was exceptional throughout the entire production because he came across as both genuine and shrewd. He positively exuded wit. His biting comments made me both laugh and squirm in my seat. Tamberla Perry, who played headstrong Susan, performed phenomenally as well. She was believable because her character had such a strong passion that it was hard to imagine she would say anything she didn’t mean, but she was also intriguing because she never did what you expected her to. Her character appeared very intelligent, yet possessed an unmistakable opinion that would change the entire course of the play. I thought she and Grapey had a sharp chemistry together and their interactions sparked my interest the most. Both Geoffrey Owens, who played black lawyer Henry Brown, and Patrick Clear, who played the man convicted of rape, Charles Strickland, were also compelling and convincing in their roles.
I sat down to watch this play not fulling expecting the powerhouse message it brought forth. Mamet clearly calls the audience’s attention to the issues of race, sex, and class, and particularly the divisions they cause, even in today’s seemingly tolerant world. These heavy topics could all easily serve as their own plays, but Mamet packs them all into one making this play abundant with meaning. Ultimately, the story enthralled me so much that when the lights went down for the final time, I didn’t want it to be over.