James Spader | RACE James Spader digs into his ultra-Mamet-y role
Credit: Robert J. Saferstein

Race (Stage)

Playwright David Mamet works all his familiar stuff trying to get a rise out of his audience in Race, a four-person dramatic tap dance about the lies blacks and whites tell each other about each other — a Broadway production populated, to a liar, with actors primarily known for their movie and TV stardom. Richard Thomas plays a rich, white man who seeks legal representation after being charged with raping a young black woman. As luck would have it, the law office where all the action takes place consists of a white partner (James Spader), a black partner (David Alan Grier), and a black legal associate (Kerry Washington), who, being a woman in a David Mamet play, is to be trusted even less than the men whose bulls— is par for the course in Mamet?s universe. Spader is the most fun (the only word to use, really), as he enjoys his ultra-Mamet-y role, all white-guy-tough-talk. Washington, ill-served by the lines given her foil of a character, looks least at ease on stage. (Her part is related, in disparaged sisterhood, to that of the girl in Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow.) All the players discharge their duties in the flat, essentially uninflected theatrical style preferred by the playwright, who also directs.

The shock is that the author (who previously staged a two-person dramatic tap dance about men and women, truth and lies in Oleanna) elicits little more than a shrug once all the thrusts and parries, revelations and reversals are toted up. The foursome bark out short, blunt, rhetorically provocative dialogue intended to demonstrate that black people and white people are doomed never to understand one another. But the arguments feel like moves on a game board, not words from the heart. C

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Race (Stage)
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