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NY1 Theater Review: "The Anarchist"

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Celebrated actresses Patti LuPone and Debra Winger are currently going head to head in David Mamet's latest work on Broadway, "The Anarchist". NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

David Mamet, the famed playwright, also directed this two-hander, and while there's clearly a lot of food for thought in the 70 minute drama, Mr. Mamet doesn't seem to care about the thoughts of his audience. However, much there is to glean from it, "The Anarchist" is just too dense and didactic for its -- and our -- own good.

What Mamet has written here is not so much dramatic as dialectic. Lights come up on an office setting where we see a prisoner named Cathy in mid-discussion with a prison official named Ann. It takes awhile to make sense of the dialogue partly because the language is elevated and the audience is made to feel like eavesdroppers in the middle of an intensely philosophical conversation.

Another problem has to do with Mamet's trademark rhythms. The two actresses speak in choppy, clipped cadences which render the dialogue distractingly artificial.

By the time we learn that Cathy was a member of a violent radical group, loosely based on the Weather Underground, that killed two officers 35 years earlier, and she’s now up for parole, the play is half over and our emotional investment in the two characters is virtually nil. It's up to Ann whether to grant Cathy's release, but what little suspense could be derived from that decision is mostly squandered amid all the heady talk about such issues as anarchy, revolution, spirituality and sexual passion. In fact, as written, the work is entirely passionless.

The performances are strong, though. Debra Winger transitions impressively to the stage after a stellar film career and Patti LuPone, most famous for her musical work, is equally adept in drama. She is an organic actress who incredibly manages to make the most stilted passages seem almost natural.

The two stars seemed constrained by both the elliptical writing and the dry direction. Mamet has some interesting ideas but given this misguided production, "The Anarchist" was doomed from the start.

As it turns out, the play is officially doomed. The producers announced it will close on Sunday, December 16.

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