When this writer saw Race during its Broadway premiere that starred Kerry Washington and David Alan Grier, I was taken out of my comfort zone.
Fast forward three-and-a-half years later, after the Zimmerman and Dunn murder trials unfolded and subsequent verdicts declared them unaccountable for the deaths of teens Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, seeing Race in the aftermath, I am shaken to the core but enlightened and wiser.
Race is now showing at Atlanta’s Southwest Arts Center and is being presented by Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company until March 23, 2014. The premise of the stage play centers around three lawyers in a firm, two black and one white, discussing whether to defend a white man charged with a crime against a black woman and confront their own biases in the process.
With nearly every single line written by “Race’s” prolific writer David Mamet, wounds from the cases of the black teens, whose lives were cut short by two dysfunctional white men heavy on ego and prejudices but light on tolerance and compassion, reopened. The wounds are deep: psychologically and emotionally, but reparable, as I’ve grown to understand the true culprit on trial is race and our perspectives on this “incendiary topic.”
As one of the characters says: “Everything you take for granted as your right is about to land you in jail.” (Light-bulb moment.) It’s these perceived “rights” that cause people to behave selfishly and become overpowered by learned prejudices and veiled racism.
As the three attorneys – a black woman (Susan, played by Tiffany Hobbs), a black man (Henry Brown, played by Neal Ghant) and a white man (Jack Lawson, played by Andrew Benator) – deliberated over the facts and dissected the case of the white man accused of violating a black woman, they had to suspend their judgments, which each found very difficult to do, not unlike the process in our judicial system.
Many aspects of this melodramatic play and the zingers delivered by Benator were thought provoking, and many times funny, but are also confirmations of my theory. I believe a case is tried before it reaches the courtroom because opposing attorneys on both sides avoid telling the truth and cunningly present two sides of fiction that play to our emotions: hatred, fear and envy, thus “giving them [jurors] a hook to hang their judgment.”
The accused, Charles Strickland, is played by Ric Reitz. For more information, please visit www.truecolorstheatre.org. –yvette caslin