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Letter: A Closer Look at Mamet’s Craft

To the Editor:

Valley News staff writer Katie Beth Ryan has done her homework in reviewing David Mamet’s Race at Northern Stage (“Mamet’s ‘Race’: What’s Next,” March 14). She well knows the text and what Mamet has said about it. She is less attentive to the theater.

She does not closely note anything she has seen on stage. In complaining that the actor playing Charles, a rich man accused of rape, is insufficiently pompous, she hasn’t observed that, without invitation, he easily moves about and sits down in the elegant conference room of the lawyers whose help he needs. The lawyers are standing. This, not Donald Trump blustering, is the arrogance of a man born to wealth and position.

A larger issue: Ryan wants Mamet to provide a “roadmap” or “blueprint” by which we can move beyond the various forms of racism he exposes. A strange request to make of a playwright staging a fictional story: Does Shakespeare tell us what a Danish prince should have done when his murderous uncle married his mother? Not in any way that two responsible Shakespeareans can agree on.

Mamet’s business is to write scenes that peel back one assumption, one conviction, one impulse after another that his characters may have, and that we may bring to the theater, about black/white, male/female, rich/poor collisions. Each perception encounters a fresh obstacle — not the least of which is that trial lawyers do not want truth or justice: They want only to win. When the characters are fairly smart about what they are doing, that keeps a playwright busy enough.

Even Mamet makes the occasional misstep. He gives his three middle-aged men first and last names. The young, black, female associate in the firm is just “Susan.” As if she were the maid.

Peter Saccio

White River Junction

Related

Theater Review: Mamet’s ‘Race’; What’s Next?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

If any modern playwrights were willing to examine race relations in America, it’s hardly surprising that David Mamet would be among them. From the ambition and sexism of Speed-the-Plow to Oleanna’s focus on a he-said, she-said scenario, Mamet tackles head-on the issues that other playwrights might approach in a more lukewarm way. The programs and promotional materials for Northern Stage’s …