Venice Theatre's Stage II Puts "Race" Front and Center

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY APR 19, 2019

Venice Theatre’s provocative Stage II Series closes out its season this year with a heavy hitter in David Mamet’s Broadway hit, Race. Premiering in 2009, the multi-faceted drama unfolds within the offices of a law firm, where two attorneys—one black and one white—weigh the merits of defending a wealthy white man charged with raping a black woman, finding both unexpected and challenging insights from the firm’s new legal assistant, a young woman of color.

For Venice Theatre Director of Diversity Kristofer Geddie, who also plays one of the lawyers in the production, Race presents an accessible and effective way to have a hard conversation. “It doesn’t necessarily give answers,” he says, “but it asks a lot of questions.” And like Mamet at his best, the play tackles the issues head-on, but with enough humor to help the medicine go down—a dramatic element not to be overlooked or taken for granted. “It gives the audience a chance to breathe,” Geddie says, and the laughter—even or perhaps especially at its most reluctant—can become the unifier an audience needs while mulling over potentially divisive topics. In that moment, says Geddie, “we’re all the same, and we can talk about this.”

As part of the cast, Geddie has experienced this firsthand, as the people behind the play are the first to wrestle with its substance. And under the direction of Kelly Wynn Woodland—a Stage II veteran—the troupe has found their own freedom in talking about the heavier things. “[She’s] an incredible conduit for us to talk and figure out what we’re going to do,” Geddie says, though he admits the rehearsal life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and can, in at least one way, be downright horrible at times. “I have so many words to memorize,” he laughs.

But even 10 turbulent years after the play’s Broadway premiere, and despite the fast-moving discussions surrounding both race and gender, all those words remain relevant, says Geddie. “It holds up,” he says, “but it holds up differently.” The play first premiered in the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s historic election; this production comes on the heels of the #MeToo movement. “It’s a completely different world,” Geddie says, and people will come to vastly different conclusions depending on their perspective. “I do hope they’ll talk about it.”

Opening April 26 at Venice Theatre, Race runs through May 12.

Pictured: Actors Chris Caswell, DaNiesha Carr and Kristofer Geddie in a scene from Venice Theatre’s production of “Race.” Photo by Renee McVety.

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