AISLE SAY San Francisco


by David Mamet
Directed by Tony Kelly
Presented by San Jose Stage Company
The Stage
490 S. First St., San Jose, CA / (408) 283-7142

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Most Americans like to think of themselves as nonracist -- at least in public -- but the dirty little secret is that racism is still woven into the fabric of our society whether intentionally or not. Playwright David Mamet brings this issue to the forefront in "Race," the 90-minute, one-act drama being staged by San Jose Stage Company. Sexism and ageism also figure into this provocative 2009 work.

The action takes place in the law office (set and lights by Michael Palumbo) of Jack Lawson (artistic director Randall King), who is white, and Henry Brown (L. Peter Callender), who is black. A wealthy, white, married man, Charles Strickland (David Arrow), comes to their office saying he has been falsely accused of rape and asking them to defend him. His alleged victim is a much younger black woman, who says the attack took place in a hotel room.

Although the attorneys aren't necessarily interested in whether or not he's guilty, they know that taking the case to a jury trial could be tricky because jurors will probably assume that he's guilty, but they also don't want to appear to be prejudiced against him. Also figuring into the attorneys' discussions is their attractive, young, black associate, Susan (ZZ Moor). She has her own opinions about the case and about the ways black women view white men and vice versa.

Like so many of Mamet's plays, such as "Oleanna," "Speed-the-Plow," the Pulitzer-winning "Glengarry Glen Ross" and others, there are no clear-cut answers or resolutions. Ambiguity and anger reign as the two partners and Susan explore the ramifications of race in their own situation as well as their client's.

Director Tony Kelly keeps the action flowing smoothly. The costumes (kudos for Susan's outfits) are by Jean Cardinale. The sound design by John Koss features songs played too loud before the play starts and between scenes.

All four actors handle their roles well in this tense, topical drama that gets the company's 30th season off to a strong start.

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