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Jobsites Race enhanced, hindered by dialogue

Like so many situations revolving around race, what is left unsaid is often more telling than what is said.

This was no exception in Jobsite Theaters performance of David Mamets Race, playing at the Straz Centers Shimberg Playhouse.

Race revolves around a law firm run by two lawyers: Jack (Paul J. Potenza), a white man, and Henry (ranney), a black man. Also employed at the law firm is Susan (USF alumna Tia Jemison), a young, attractive black female lawyer called to assist in the case of Charles (Ned Averill-Snell), a wealthy and powerful white man accused of raping a black woman.

At the end of an initial meeting with Charles, Jack and Henry are forced not to take on Charles as a client after missteps in Susans work on the case.

The three main characters debate the innocence of Charles, a complex character well-played by Averill-Snell, who presents his character as an unlikable man with an element of sadness that is impossible to ignore, and at some level, to pity.

The play is owned, however, by the powerful performances of Jack and Henry, whose dialogue is full of the quick, shocking words that make a trademark Mamet play. Potenza and ranney share the kind of chemistry that makes Mamets words believable and less aggressive, almost commonplace in what would normally be their uncomfortable usage.

Jemisons character is limited by Mamets writing not uncommon for a female in a Mamet play but throughout her demure and controlled performance, the audience catches glimpses that Susan is smarter than her male counterparts suspect perhaps even crafty in her missteps that cause the firm to reject the case of the powerful and white Charles.

Again, what is unsaid is more telling than what is said.

Though technically a legal drama, there is little suspense in Race. Instead we get a mirror held up to societys stereotypes and hard-held and even harder-concealed racial discrimination.

The words that go unspoken suggest that no one can really know the extent of someones racism. Addiotnally, how one might use race to his or her advantage can also never be proven.

While the play has all the edgy, intense elements of a typical Mamet production, Race is less effective in its approach of a difficult subject matter, lacking the typical impudence that has made his work famous.

In spite of a stellar and believable cast, brilliant stage direction and impressive set and costume design, the play, while enjoyable, lacks true nerve, the fault of which lies only with Mamets writing.

As the actors took their final bow and the curtain fell and the audience stood to give the cast and a crew a well-deserved standing ovation, one had to wonder how much of the applause was for the impressive performance of Race and how much was simply an apology for everything that remained unexamined, unidentified and most of all, unsaid.

Race runs through June 3, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are $24.50.