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David Mamet’s ‘Race’ exposes anger, profiling, revenge, hidden agendas

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"Race" by David Mamet at The Living Room in Kansas City

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Stereotypes and misconceptions take center stage at The Living Room’s new production, “Race,” opened March 26 and runs through April 13, with the David Mamet drama set to question and push the boundaries.

Director Rusty Sneary said that the issue of race generally deals with stereotypes from opposing sides of the situation. Mamet’s play puts those ideas under a microscope to help establish truth, when no truth can always be discovered.

“Race” takes place in the offices of Lawson and Brown, a law firm that consists of Jack Lawson, a white man in his forties; Henry Brown, a black man in his forties; and Susan, a black woman in her twenties. Charles Strickland, a wealthy White man of some fame, comes to their office seeking legal representation because he has been falsely accused of a committing a crime against a Black. Cornered into taking the case, the lawyers are forced to navigate the waters of race, wealth, truth, and deception, a spokesman for The Living Room said.

Sneary’s telling of the Mamet drama looks at perception verses reality in the aspect of how different ethnicities perceive other ethnicities. Finding the truth somehow gets lost in stereotypes and misconceptions, he said. Winning takes backstage to racism and profiling.

Standouts in the show, Forrest Attaway and Chioma Anyanwu, engage in some strong scenes where they spar, viciously about perceptions and realities of racial attitudes. Blacknalysis, a term from another show, (“The Frowning Vajayjays of Shady Pines”) explains that attitude as the way a Black person perceives what a White person really means. More specifically, Blacknalsiys means Blacks have to ward against the racist assumptions of Whites by covering their butt, whenever there is a possibility that he or she could unfairly be accused of something. No shame is involved, just distrust on the basis of history and experience.

Attaway and Anyanwu through Mamet’s play, “Race,” magnify shame, guilt, vengeance and revenge in characters that strike a resounding note with the audience. Their acting, reactions facial expressions are those to two strong characters refusing to budge on their opinions and determination. Expect to see strong unyielding characters from both.

“Race” begins intensely with the four characters arguing over a pending trial and whether a law firm will defend a wealthy White man as its client. As the play unfolds, the moral compass of all four individuals comes into play.

Damron Russel Armstrong provides any comic relief with a sarcastic flavor to his character and Tim Ahlenius gives the racial charge to the show with his character’s penchant for sex with Black women and the pattern he established through both past and present encounters.

Watch Ahenius’ character as he works from a man wrongly accused to a man wanting forgiveness, though not guilty. It’s the notion, “I am not a racist,” but I want to protect myself without damaging others” that plays heavily on his mind.

Armstrong uses biting sarcasm and rapid fire delivery to bring some comic relief to the show before he strips the character to show his strength of character and understanding of the underlying problems. His character changes the most through the play as he becomes the loud-speaker for the reality.

In all, Sneary assembled a dynamic cast of an intense show that keeps the audience on edge throughout. Be ready for surprises because they occur. Be ready for a slap-in-the-face end.

The show features a local cast of: Forrest Attaway, Damron Russel Armstrong, Chioma Anyanwu, and Tim Ahlenius. The creative, led by Sneary includes: technical director, Mark Hambrecht; lighting designer, John "Moose" Kimball; sound designer, Joseph Concha; properties designer, Shawnna Journagan; costume designer, Aaron Chvatal; stage manager, Neil Andes; assistant stage manager, Janet Reines; dramaturg; Robert Fletcher.

A truly unique setting, The Living Room contains a collection of couches, end tabes, and other vintage chairs for the comfort of guests. Doors open 30 minutes prior to curtain time so guests may partake of popcorn, drinks, and snacks. Shows runs March 26-April 13, at 8p.m.(no shows on Tuesdays). The theatre is handicap accessible. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit thelivingroomkc.com or call 816.533.5857. Student and group discounts available.

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