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The Anarchist

(Review by Tulis McCall)

Welcome to the only two character one-woman show in New York. The two onstage would be Debra Winger and Patti Lupone. This is Patti's show, and not because she asked for it.

Cathy (Lupone) has been in jail for 35 years. She was part of a revolutionary group a few decades back, and two police officers were killed. Her co-conspirator is still at large.

When we meet these two women, Cathy has presented herself for another "inquisition" on the subject of her release. Her father is dying. She has repented and reformed. She has found God. She wants out.

Ann on the other hand is not so darn sure that Cathy is being honest. At hand she has the manuscript that Cathy has written and will quote from it, and from a dozen other pointless files strewn around the set, to refute Cathy's claims that she is a woman deserving of release.

The battle is clear. One wants out, and one wants to stop her. What is missing is heart and soul. This event, while depicted as a debate on the surface, remains a debate. Lupone pretty much pulls every trick she has out of her hat and uses them skillfully in order to connect with Winger, but it is to no avail. Winger is intent on saying her lines and not bumping into the furniture. While this makes her a perfect actor for Mamet, who doesn't seem to care much for the profession, it makes her a disappointing partner for Lupone.

Mamet is a Gatling gun of ideas, and to my mind this makes him a very isolated male writer. Indeed this is a script that could easily have been handled by two men, and I wonder if that was the original idea. This is a life and death situation in which both women remain firmly seated in their heads. That could have been a great premise had the two actors been equal in skill and the direction given to someone else.

Like many Mamet plays this one is void of contractions (I do not vs. I don't) and filled with so many multisyllabic words it will make your head spin. This is more of a contest: actors vs. text. The text wins, but it is a shallow victory. One line in the play stands out: Words not meant to misdirect are wasted. In that case there is nary a wasted word here. Operation successful. Patient died.

"Generally static play."
Ben Brantley for New York Times

"Short, dense and dry."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

"Repetitive and blunt."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

"A droning, pompous essay brought to unnatural life."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage

"A bewildering exercise in audience exclusion."
Robert Feldberg for The Record

"Too dense and didactic for its -- and our -- own good."
Roma Torre for NY1

"Disappointingly dull occasion."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

"Desiccated, dull and virtually without drama."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter

"While the scribe hasn't lost his tongue for intelligent talk, the director works hard to impose the flat tones of courtroom discourse, while perversely stifling any hint of emotional expression."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety

External links to full reviews from popular press...

New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - The Hollywood Reporter - Variety

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