The crime of rape is difficult to prosecute. Frequently, the defense ends up making the victim look complicit.
In the David Mamet play “Race,” that has opened on The Rep’s main stage, this point is is clearly delineated, as is the complication that the alleged assailant is a wealthy white businessman, who can afford the best legal defense, and the alleged victim is a middle-class African-American woman who was dressed in a provocative red dress with sequins while cavorting with the accused in a hotel room, and had a history of a relationship with the accused before the event in question occurred.
The first act of “Race” is only 35 minutes long but sets up the entire scenario in a strident fashion. Two attorneys (played by Jeff Talbot and Morocco Omari’s) meet the accused rapist after he comes to their office to present his side of the story and see if they will take his case. Assisting the two lawyers is a young, African-American female attorney who has recently joined the firm to gain experience after graduating from law school. She is played by Zoey Martinson. The accused is played by Mark Elliot Wilson’s.
Act II of “Race” is equally efficient and about 50 minutes long. (Mamet never does mince words.) You should know that the language is provocative and profanity laced. All manner of sharp, stinging issues of race, honesty and the law are covered, and as in much of Mamet’s work, the unexpected becomes a key. And Mamet doesn’t always give you clear-cut answers. In this show’s case, the audience is the “jury” in most respects.
I would have liked to have seen this play be a little longer so that the individual personas could be revealed in slightly more depth. The play as written almost seems like it’s in a version of theatrical shorthand. That said, “Race” is a strong, almost draconian vision of the topics it treats. It’s the kind of show that once it gets its hooks in, it just won’t let go.
“Race” will be on the main stage at The Rep through March 4.