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Theater Reviews : Burbage Ensemble Illuminates ‘Race’

With “Race” the Burbage Theater Ensemble has found an ingenious and illuminating way tolook at the vexing, endlessly complicated subject of American race relations.

Chicago playwright Jamie Pachino has adapted the interviews of Studs Terkel’s recent book “Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession” into a kaleidoscopic series of scenes reflecting the fear, hope and confusion of everyday people in the melting pot.

A tough Polish American cop recounts how he was ostracized by peers for bucking a racist policy. A man worries that Latinos on television are only shown “in street gangs, immigration raids or drug busts.” And African Americans notice the not-so-subtle ways they are shunned in restaurants and on subways.

The material, at least as arranged by Pachino, has an unmistakably left-leaning spin, with a tendency to break whites down into camps of the enlightened and the ignorant. But the show’s poignant insight and occasionally mordant humor more than compensate.

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Co-directors Ivan Spiegel and Jimm Giannini choreograph the brief scenes with admirable theatrical flair, and the nine-member ensemble, while occasionally stumbling during the review performance, nevertheless found the poetry in these real-life monologues.

* “Race,” Burbage Theatre, 2330 Sawtelle Blvd., West Los Angeles. Thursdays 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 7:30 p.m. Ends Sept. 10. $15. (310) 478-0897. Running time: 1 hour , 30 minutes.


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