There are few active playwrights whose new plays constitute events in and of themselves, but David Mamet, who is also the author of Nextbook Press’s The Wicked Son, surely belongs in that elite handful, and last night’s opening of his Race is one of those events. The play, which is running at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre, is a rapid four-person drama (albeit with much humor: it is, after all, by Mamet) about three lawyers, two black and one white, who are defending a white man accused of raping a young black girl.
Reviews so far have been mixed. The New York Times concluded, “Despite the tension of its subject, and an abundance of the corkscrew plot twists for which Mr. Mamet is known, Race lacks real dramatic tension” (the review did reserve special praise for lead actor James Spader). “His ideas lack their usual polemical bite and there’s something tentative about the overall vision,” the Los Angeles Times agrees. USA Today, however, gives Mamet “credit for a briskly entertaining, if flawed, study.” And Bloomberg’s critic advises, “You can relish Race quite independently of whether you consider it bravura or bravado.” Mamet, whose plays themselves are frequently obsessed with language and talking, if nothing else seems always able to provoke a discussion.
The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews [Nextbook Press]