WAUKESHA - David Mamet, a
very prolific playwright and screenwriter, is best known for his brutal,
uncensored language and negative view of the human race.
Even though I find his works
fascinating and honest, I always leave after encountering one feeling a little
scummy and ashamed. So if you’re looking for inspiration, avoid Mamet. But if
you’re open to alternate points of view, come see “Race,” now playing at
the Next Act Theatre in Milwaukee.
The script takes on the
issues of race, gender and the so-called justice system. A wealthy white man has
been accused of raping a black woman in a hotel room. He brings his case to a
law firm with one white and one black lawyer and a female black
assistant-secretary, who is also a lawyer.
These four characters
comprise the cast. We never meet the woman who has allegedly been raped, but the
accused claims that the sex was consensual.
As in any criminal case, we
are confronted with the question of whom to believe and the preconceived notions
of everyone involved in the case. One assumption that must be accepted for
openers is that we all have prejudices, and our perceptions are based on our own
unique experiences. Many times our words don’t match our thoughts. We often
tailor them to meet acceptable societal standards.
Another thought that came to
mind in following this story is that, according to Mamet, human behaviors are
motivated by self-interest rather than any moral code, and greed, power and
revenge are often the instigators of the choices we make. There is certainly
some truth in his philosophy, but whether or not it is the whole truth is
David Cecsarini, Lee Palmer,
Jonathan Smoots and Tiffany Renee Johnson, a newcomer to the Next Act stage,
comprise the strong cast. Cecsarini and Johnson are standouts in their sizzling
Race is definitely still a
problem in society, especially in the U.S. with our unique heritage. Gender
issues also prevail, even though some progress has been made on both fronts.
As for the justice system,
driven as it is by money and who can afford the most skilled lawyers, as well as
the problem of the pre-conceptions of the jurors, one wonders if justice is just
another idealistic notion, never to be realized.
They are all fascinating
issues to ponder, and Mamet, with his in-your-face style, forces us to squirm
but not hide.
Rick Graham’s slick set
design and Edward Morgan’s slick directing, along with some convincing acting,
combine to offer us something to ponder as we braved the cold to encounter some
of the heat of Mamet.
“Race” runs through Feb.
23 at the Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St., Milwaukee. For show times and
tickets, call 414-278-0765 or visit www.nextact.org.