Race – By Yliana Velazquez

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

In world where prejudice still exists and judgments are made, Race portrays the issues of racial prejudice and the inevitable biases that each person develops.. Even in legal court cases where one’s future depends on the justice of a trial, judgements and accusations based on race cannot be exempt from determining the argument of a case and how a particular case plays out.. Many cases depend on the “better story”.   Is this fair?  Does this approach secure justice?  As the jury, the audience becomes involved in the decision of a crime case and who is at fault.

The static scene, of a law office, throughout the play kept the audience focused on what was going on within the scene; nothing is ever taken outside of the office, except for leaked information, which is quite ironic on director Chuck Smith’s part, and very well done. The office set is encompassed by shelves of closed books from floor to ceiling with a balcony hovering over the center of the office;  the positioning of the characters throughout this set is essential to the body language that they present and the dramatic effect that is created.  The suspenseful music between dialogues kept the audience with eyes open and ears perked.  Geoffrey Owens, as Henry Brown, and Marc Grapey, as Jack Lawson, work in a partnership that they have had for years, until they recently hire a new associate, Susan, played by Tamberla Perry.  Together, they take on Charles Strickland’s case, played by Patrick Clear, who was accused of raping a young black woman.  The young woman accusing an older man of rape is never seen or directly heard from in David Mamet’s playwrite, although the Goodman uses a provocative image of a brown-skinned woman in a low-cut, red-sequined dress as its image promoting the play.  Uneasy about the positions they must take, Henry and Jack are hesitant before accepting the case until Susan “accidentally” takes it. Yeah right, Susan.  Questions of morals, loyalty, and truth are evoked through the examination of Strickland’s case.

Geoffrey Owens, Marc Grapey, and Tamberla Perry team together to put on an amazing performance and demonstrate the collaboration between black and white. Although a shaky and unconvincing start for Perry, she pulled through in the last scenes to deliver an honest performance. She began the play as a curious associate, with a thirst for knowledge, but posed her questions to the men too forcibly and unnaturally.  She came through, however, with a more passionate and aggressive performance.  Her character seemed to grow with her. Owens and Grapey take the show with their tag-team bond and delivery of humor covered by their utmost seriousness. The audience becomes attached to these characters and seeks the truth as passionately as they do.

This storyline leaves the audience wanting more, but perhaps because not enough was said. While some like the abandonment of questions, and the mysteriousness it brings, many were left lingering. Evidence was presented without ever explaining the significance. Why was the post-card relevant? Was Charles really guilty? Why was crucial evidence reported so long after the initial reports? The significance of these questions was never presented. Whether it was intended for the audience to answer these questions with their own imaginations… Mamet left a lot of these to be answered by the audience themselves. If one is looking for a mystery with unanswered questions… here is where to find one.  Otherwise, buckle up for a frustrating mind rape.

The obvious issue of race is presented and brought to the table, but the play also encompassed an underlying issue of sexism and the crime of rape.  The latter issues are never encountered directly, overshadowed by the more prevalent prejudice of color.  Can Mamet be doing this intentionally?  Issues regarding sexism and rape are so often over-looked, that they are never directly addressed in society either; these issues occur behind-the-scenes where we are never quite sure of what’s going on.  Race, however, is an issue that has been battled publicly and taken the spotlight from other evils of society.  The men in this case, become the victims of both sexism and rape, creating a reversal of perspective and norm.  Mamet creates a work of reflection on society that still exists; are we ready to face it?