When the directors of the small theater group Paradise Island Express first considered producing David Mamet's "Edmond," (which opens here this week) they rejected it as being too controversial. The play, a long one-act first produced in 1982 at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, deals with racial hatred, among other things.

"A few months later, we said this is exactly the sort of play we should be doing," says Paul Lavrakas, codirector of P.I.E., as it's called. "It's like throwing the gauntlet down to the audience and the other theaters in town, and saying: This is the cutting edge of contemporary American theater, and if you're at all interested in that you'd better pay attention."

Edmond is a 34-year-old middle-class white who leaves his wife and decides to make some changes in his life, the first being an expedition to purchase sex. In confronting white hookers and their black pimps, he reveals a frightening hatred of blacks and of women. "He finds himself capable of violence," Lavrakas explained, "but he does not know that once violence or hatred is unleashed it takes possession."

The play will be performed at the Lansburgh Cultural Center on Seventh Street NW, a few blocks from Washington's tenderloin. The actors, however, felt no need to investigate the area as research for the play. "That's not a place you go to fool around," Lavrakas said.