J CITY Theater Scores Big with Rights to New Jersey Premier of David Mamet’s ‘Race;’ Show Opens This Friday

It’s not often that a small grassroots theater troupe in Jersey City gets the chance to stage a New Jersey premiere of any play, much less a much-talked-about script written by one of the greats of the modern era.

But that’s just what happened to J CITY Theater, which this week will produce the New Jersey premier of David Mamet’s Race — a show that was wowing audiences on Broadway just last year.

“When we learned that David Mamet had agreed to let our company be the New Jersey premier of Race, we were at first over the moon with excitement — then scared to death,” says J CITY executive producer Clay Cockrell. “I think this opportunity is a real testament to the grow and quality of our company. In the end, it’s the same with every script we approach: tell the story and tell it well.”

J CITY will stage 10 performances of the show, a legal drama/detective story that follows three lawyers who find themselves defending a rich, white businessman accused of a crime against a young African-American woman.

“As one of America’s leading playwrights, Mamet is doing what he does best: choosing an incendiary topic and then asking more questions than he answers,” J CITY says in promotional materials. “Race has the quick banter of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, the gloves-off approach of his Speed The Plow and provocative subject matter of Oleanna.”

The cast for Race will feature a number of Jersey City residents: Ron Nummi as Charles Strickland, Dianna Lauren Jones as Susan, and Sandy Cockrell as Jack Lawson. (NYC’s Brian Richardson rounds out the cast as Henry Brown.)

Cockrell, who also serves as J CITY’s artistic director, says Mamet’s script fits in well with the overall mission of the troupe.

“When we started J CITY Theater, our goal was to present cutting edge scripts that would challenge us and our audiences,” she says. “Race asks more questions than it answers, and for me as a director and an actress, that’s very attractive.”

As it usually does, J CITY has teamed up with local restaurants to offer Dinner and a Show deals. The Embankment will offer a $30 prix fixe menu on performance nights, while the Hamilton Inn will offer 10 percent of the entire bill for theater-goers.

In addition, J CITY’s exhibition space, Gallery 9, will feature photography by Noa Griffel in a show curated by Hernando Rico Sanchez (a special artist reception is scheduled for Saturday, October 15, from 2 to 4 pm).

THE DETAILS

J CITY Theater presents Race; at The Underground Theater at St. Michael’s Church, 252 9th Street. Show opens Friday, October 7 and runs on Wednesdays through Saturdays, until Saturday, October 22. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased in advance via Brown Paper Tickets.

Jon Whiten

co-founded the Jersey City Independent. He is currently the Deputy Director of New Jersey Policy Perspective.