Although we will soon leave for New York on one of our theater/museum/restaurant marathons, we had to see one play before leaving San Francisco.
Although we have sometimes had trouble with some of Mamet’s staccato dialog, we have usually found his work engaging and thought-provoking. We were, however, so engaged in the ACT’s production of Race which unfortunately took two years to get to San Francisco after its Broadway premier), that we didn’t have time to even think about potentially disruptive speech patterns.
Race, the first play that Mamet wrote since his conversion from card-carrying liberal, to conservative, examines the issues of racism, sexism and the amorality of the legal profession in a scenario in which a rich industrialist approaches a law firm to represent him in a case in which he is charged with raping a less affluent (later determined to be a prostitute) black woman in a hotel room. The play revolves primarily around a discussion in which three lawyers (two partners, one white and one black) and a young, black female associate) engage in moral and tactical debates as to whether to represent the defendant.
The play, in typically Mamet fashion, examines these and a range of other moral issues, directly and in provocative language. Although we did, after an hour and a half of revelations and plot twists, find the conclusion to be a bit implausible, it did not stop us from finding the play, and some of the questions it raised, intriguing.
A number of other audience members apparently felt the same way. We were lucky enough to attend on one of the evenings in which ACT sponsored a post-play discussion group led by three lawyers (a prosecutor, a defense attorney and a law professor that specializes in social justice). The panel, prodded by a number of provocative audience questions, discussed the ways such cases were actually discussed within law firms, examined many of the legal and the moral issues that were brought up and explored hypotheticals, such as how the conversation and resolution may differ if the defendant were a poor black man, and the alleged victim, rich and white.
Overall, a very satisfying (albeit in a somewhat disturbing way), evening.