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Powerful, provocative ‘Race’ at Ocean State Theatre
Don Fowler
Mark Turek
Pictured from left, Christopher Swan, Damron Russel Armstrong, Nakeisha Daniel and Sean McGuirk portray Jack Lawson, Henry Brown, Susan and Charles Strickland in the Rhode Island premiere of David Mamet's provocative play Race being presented at the new Ocean State Theatre in Warwick through April 14. For tickets call 921-6800 or visit www.OceanStateTheatre.org

While the terms “pro-vocative” and “powerful” are often associated with David Mamet, you can also add “prolific.”

Ocean State Theatre Company’s program lists two pages of his plays, movies and other works, including “American Buffalo,” “Glengarry Glenn Ross” and “Speed-The-Plow,” all seen in these parts. Add his 2009 hard-hitting “Race,” which pulls no punches when dealing with racism and stereotypes, this time in a lawyers’ office, where three lawyers and a client discuss the case of a rich white man accused of raping a black woman.

Two of the attorneys are black and one is white. Their own prejudices and feelings slowly emerge as they discuss the case among themselves and slowly discover new facts that their client is reluctant to share with them.

A short first act sets up the story, which explodes in the second act.

Be warned that the language is R rated and the racial epithets are thrown around at a hectic pace. This is not “Annie,” folks. But it is Mamet at his best, forcing his audience to face their own thoughts and fears about racial conflict. It is about shame and guilt and power and a lot of other feelings that emerge when people let out their innermost prejudices. It is very powerful theatre.

Director Aimee Turner has assembled an outstanding cast, with Warwick’s own Sean McGuirk, who played Wilbur in Theatre-by-the-Sea’s “Hairspray.” McGuirk shows a different side to his character of the accused Charles Strickland. Christopher Swan, Damron Russel Armstrong and Nakeisha Daniel are all strong as the conflicted attorneys.

If you want to see hard-hitting, powerful theatre, get on over to Warwick’s Ocean State Theatre Company on Jefferson Boulevard before its short run ends on April 14. Tickets are $30-$47. For those on a limited budget, rush tickets are available for $20 one hour before the performance. Call 921-6800 for reservations.

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