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Race 

The production sparkles, almost covering the holes in the script.

click to enlarge Down to cases: John DeMita (left) and Alan Bomar Jones in Race, at PICT. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SUELLEN FITZSIMMONS.

At 63, David Mamet is still the naughty little boy pushing all the buttons in the metaphorical high-rise elevator: in this instance, Race, an incendiary topic even without the Mamet touch. Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre's crisp production of his 2009 drama zips along with staccato dialogue and gushes of comedy to an entertaining -- if not particularly satisfying -- resolution.

Blame it on the playwright. Purportedly a tale of the strategic discussions for defending a rich white guy facing trial for the rape of a black woman (of undetermined financial status), Race has so many twists that it ultimately unravels. I can't believe Mamet's plot points, but it would be cheating for me to reveal them, let alone discuss them. And even after 35 years, he still can't get his female characters into focus.

Director Andrew S. Paul does a good job of masking Race's foibles and fallibilities with a breakneck pace and superb casting. The partners of Lawson and Brown are dead on: John DeMita has the perfect jaw and hair for an up-and-coming Great White Shark lawyer, and Alan Bomar Jones slides from bombast to a form of persuasion just this side of wheedling. These are Mamet characters we know -- slick, amoral, focused -- and the actors bring them to brittle life.

Far fuzzier is the character of Susan, who lacks a job title as well as a surname. We're told that she graduated from an Ivy League law school, but not whether she's a member of the bar. We see that she is Lawson's protégée, but her job seems more administrative than legal. Oh, and she dresses like a female lawyer on TV, not a real one. Despite these handicaps, Casiha Felt breathes fire, if not full credibility, into the role. Fuzziest of all is the client, the accused rapist, affably and competently played by Michael Fuller.

The design and technical folks have a good idea of what a law office looks like and how it works. The production sparkles, almost covering the holes in the script.

 

RACE continues through Oct. 1. Henry Heymann Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, Forbes Avenue at Bigelow, Oakland. 412-394-3353 or picttheatre.org

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