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RACE presented by New Edgecliff Theatre through April 25. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
For its final show of the season, NET tackles a contemporary look at the “race” in a play by David Mamet. Commenting on his own work, Mamet has said the “theme is race and the lies we tell each other on the subject.” At the beginning, the theme is discussed clinically as an experienced attorney shares his legal-wisdom with his young protege. But when the theme turns personal, lines are quickly drawn between the characters.
The four-person ensemble is solid across the board. Tackling a Mamet play is not an easy undertaking with its dense dialogue. Opening night, there were times when it felt like the cast was not quite on top of the script yet.
As the accused Charles Strickland, Robert Allen brings a great presence to the character. He is all indignation and wounded pride. There were moments when this came off as defensive which made me think the character was guilty of something. Perhaps a bit of rich man arrogance and swagger would have diffused that a bit at the beginning of the play.
Jack Lawson, one of the defense attorneys, is portrayed by Michael Shooner. Jack tends to wear his arrogance like an accessory. I thought Lawson’s mentoring relationship with Susan was very believable and yet contained a hint on inappropriateness that worked for the character.
Reggie Willis plays the other defense attorney, Henry Brown. I enjoyed how he would allow Jack to lead the interaction when dealing with Strickland, but clearly showed he was an equal partner when their client wasn’t present. Henry’s animosity toward Susan made sense, but initially it seemed a bit harsh. Perhaps if it built a little more.
Rounding out the cast is Renika Williams as young attorney Susan. Williams does well in holding her own against her peers. I wouldn’t have minded to see Susan a bit more grounded with a bigger chip on her shoulder. There were a few times Susan’s reactions seemed more appropriate to the actor’s age than the character’s.
Daryl Harris’ solid hand and knowledge of the material is visible in his direction of the actors. He also handles the performance space well, finding every opportunity to naturally move the action away from the stage left table to balance out the staging.
Set designer Rachel Kuhn uses the Hoffner Lodge space well. With the main floor being an over-sized conference room, she created two playing contrasting playing areas. By hanging material between the poles of the balcony, she smartly uses silhouette to depict the office area above.
Both prop master Mary Gascho and costume designer Sherry Amott Tippey do well in presenting “wealth” on a limited budget. The only costume that read less than ideal for me was Strickland’s first suit.
Overall, a well-executed, interesting and at times, intense drama.
My rating: 4 out of 5
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