After starting their 2012 season with an English adaptation of a fast-and-furious French sex farce (Boeing-Boeing, June 13-17 and 20-24) and a jaunty backstage maritime musical (Dames at Sea, July 5-8 and 11-15), Hot Summer Nights and its new parent company, Theatre Raleigh, are staging an eye-opening drama on a timely but thorny topic — Race by Chicago playwright, screenwriter, and director David Mamet — on July 25-29 and Aug. 1-5 in the K.D. & Sara Lynn Kennedy Theatre in back of the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, NC. HSN and TR artistic director Lauren Kennedy, who is staging this 2009 Broadway hit, warns Triangle theatergoers that Race is an R-rated script — chock-full of Mamet’s trademark profanity — which frankly explores issues seldom discussed onstage.
Race made its Broadway debut, directed by Mamet, on Dec. 6, 2009 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it played for 297 performances before closing on Aug. 21, 2010. James Spader made his Broadway debut playing attorney Jack Lawson, David Alan Grier played Lawson’s African-American partner Henry Brown, Kerry Washington made her Broadway Debut as Lawson and Brown’s new African-American associate Susan, and Richard Thomas portrayed the firm’s billionaire client Charles Strickland, who is accused of committing an unspeakable crime against a black woman. Grier received a 2010 Tony Award® nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
“I was aware of the show when it opened on Broadway a few years ago,” says Lauren Kennedy, “and my husband (Tony nominee and HSN and TR executive director Alan Campbell) has auditioned for the play a few times — but interestingly enough, always for another character than the one he is playing in our production. So, I read audition scenes with him a number of times; and it made me want to read the whole play. But I must say this show especially intrigued him. He really wanted to include it in our season this year.”
She adds, “I love that this show deals with Race in a new way. It kind of turns it upside-down. And as always in a Mamet play, he leaves so much open to the audience’s interpretation and wants them to go off and discuss it and grow from the experience. That is exciting to me … to hear people discuss it as they walk out” of the theater after the show.
Kennedy says, “The play begins with billionaire Charles Strickland (David McClutchey) having been accused of raping a black woman, seeking legal representation at the firm of Lawson and Brown. Jack Lawson (Alan Campbell) is white; Henry Brown (Erick Pinnick) is black. Their new hire Susan (Lormarev Jones), fresh out of law school, is also black.
“Race follows the characters as they decide if they want to take on the case,” Kennedy explains. “The plot unfolds as the three lawyers and defendant grapple with the evidence of the case and their own feelings about race. Mamet has said that the ‘theme is race and the lies we tell each other on the subject.'”
In addition to HSN and TR artistic director Lauren Kennedy and executive director Alan Campbell, the Hot Summer Nights and Theatre Raleigh creative team for Race includes assistant director Liz Ray, technical director and lighting designer Chris Bernier, set designer and properties manager Rick Young, costume designer LeGrande Smith, sound designer Eric Collins, and stage manager Mette Schladweiler. Also working hard behind the scenes are associate artistic director Adam Twiss, publicity and media relations director Hilary Russo, and general manager Michele Weathers.
Director Lauren Kennedy notes, “The show takes place in the conference room of a small successful law firm. It is very contemporary and sleek, yet the colors are warm…. The entire show takes place in the course of one day. So, the majority of the lighting will be the time elapse of the sun.”
She adds, “The costumes are business-like and simple. The male lawyers will be tastefully dressed in suits, as will the female lawyer. The billionaire will have less emphasis on [wearing] the appropriate attire!”
In staging Race, Lauren Kennedy claims, “The only challenge is striking a fair debate…. As always with Mamet, you have to mention the language. But … I certainly don’t wait to scare anyone away. Though there is adult language and themes,” Kennedy says, “Race is not at all beyond what you would see most R-rated movies.”
Kennedy admits, “I am excited about this show because I think the performances, the acting — and the debate — will be so fascinating to watch! I learn something new every night at rehearsal, and I feel that directing this show has made me a better human being.”
Besides Boeing-Boeing (June 13-17 and 20-24), Dames at Sea (July 5-8 and 11-15), and Race (July 25-29 and Aug. 1-5) — all three in the Kennedy Theatre — Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy and Theatre Raleigh‘s sizzling 2012 season will continue Robert Lopez’s whimsical Broadway musical Avenue Q (Aug. 15-19 the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater); the musical revue Oh, What a Night 2 (Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in the Kennedy Theatre); Stephen Temperley’s biographical drama Souvenir, starring Lisa Jolley as wealthy socialite and would-be singer Florence Foster Jenkins (Oct. 3-7 and 10-14 in the Kennedy Theatre); and Tracy Letts’ dark comedy August Osage County (Nov. 29-Dec. 2 and Dec. 6-9 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater).
SECOND OPINION: July 23rd Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh preview by BWW News Desk: http://raleigh.broadwayworld.com/article/Lauren-Kennedy-Directs-Alan-Campbell-in-Theatre-Raleighs-RACE-20120723.
Hot Summer Nights and Theatre Raleigh present RACE at 8 p.m. July 25-28, 3 p.m. July 29, 8 p.m. Aug. 1-4, and 3 p.m. Aug. 5 in the K.D. & Sara Lynn Kennedy Theatre in back of the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $24 ($20 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except $30 on July 25th.
BOX OFFICE: 866-811-4111 or https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/27655.
INFORMATION: 919-480-5166 or email@example.com.
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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