Theater review: Race

A review of David Mamet's critically acclaimed play, Race, being performed at the Haifa Theater.

Race, by David Mamet (photo credit: Gerhar Alon)
Race, by David Mamet
(photo credit: Gerhar Alon)
The dialogue crackles, the pace is brisk, the characters credible and the direction sure in Moshe Naor’s crackerjack production of David Mamet’s Race.
Accused of raping a young black woman in his hotel room, white billionaire Charles Strickland (Sharon Alexander) hires the bi-racial firm of Lawson & Brown to represent him.
Jack Lawson (Rami Hoiberger) is white, Henry Brown (Norman Issa) is black, as is their intern Susan (Esther Rada).
The alleged rape, ethics or justice are not at issue; it’s color that matters.
50 years back, Lawson says cynically, the jury would automatically have returned a “not guilty” verdict. In today’s politically correct climate the verdict is automatically “guilty.” This is not a case they want, Lawson tells his partner, because win or lose, the firm will suffer. But when Susan – perhaps for reasons of her own – takes Strickland’s check, they are duty-bound to represent him.
Fraught? Of course. The whole question of race comes with plenty of baggage.
What Mamet does is unpack some of it without pedantry and with a lot of humor. Eran Atzmon’s glass-walled set suggests the idea that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, the stones here being the prejudices we’re born with, or are taught, or acquire, and which we have either to fight or go along with.
Oren Dar has dressed her characters conservatively. The lawyers wear black.
Strickland wears navy. Appearance is all, but so are agendas, and as the gloves come off, so do Brown and Lawson’s jackets.
The actors are wonderfully aware and have latched onto their roles with a fervor that makes watching them a treat.
It’s not a coincidence that Norman Issa is Arab or Esther Rada Ethiopian. Race is as applicable here as it is to the US. Distrust, suspicion and fear of anybody that isn’t “us” – whoever the “us” may be – has no national boundaries.
Race By David Mamet
Translated by Yosef el-Dror
Directed by Moshe Naor
Haifa Theater, February 7