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Mamet on Race

90 minutes of tension with Next Act

Feb. 7, 2014
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David Mamet constructs an intricate exploration of American prejudice and racial dynamics in Race. As produced by Next Act Theatre, it’s a tight little drama that grinds through 90 tense minutes with no intermission and little room to breathe. Jonathan Smoots plays a wealthy man accused of sexually assaulting a young African American woman. Smoots has a compassionate nobility about him that makes the accusation of rape seem that much more shocking.

David Cecsarini and Lee Palmer play the two lawyers the man approaches seeking legal advice. Mamet crafts some deft dialogue for the lawyers that covers the nature of guilt, innocence, justice and prejudice with a playfully poetic leap through the jaws of language itself. Cecsarini in particular has an impressive grasp of Mamet’s particular flavor of perspicacity through brevity.

Tiffany Renee Johnson plays a new addition to the law firm who is aiding the two lawyers. Being a young black woman, she has a perspective on the situation that firmly establishes the intensity of the conflict powering the drama.

The script poses challenges the Next Act cast handles admirably. The biggest is keeping the whole thing from seeming like some abstract piece of social commentary. Director Edward Morgan has balanced things really well. Clearly there’s quite a bit of work being done to make these characters rise above abstract stereotypes. Thanks to the efforts of Morgan and company, all that work comes across in a way that feels quite natural. The scenario seems authentic without seeming overeager to seem authentic.

Next Act Theatre’s Race runs through Feb. 23, at 255 S. Water St. For tickets, call 414-278-0765 or visit nextact.org.










TAGS: Russ Bickerstaff, David Mamet, Race, Next Act Theatre, Jonathan Smoots, David Cecsarini, Lee Palmer, Tiffany Renee Johnson, Edward Morgan




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