The Penitent, the latest dilemma dreamed up by David Mamet, concerns a psychiatrist named Charles (Chris Bauer) who can't in good conscience testify on behalf of a patient on trial for a mass shooting. Charles's quandary keeps him fretting over his obligations to God (he's newly rediscovered Judaism) and to his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon), who's buckling under the strain of public disapproval. This being Mamet, all that high-minded morality, as well as any faith in legal, medical, and religious institutions, is
short-lived. The impact of the therapist's fall is somewhat blunted, in Neil Pepe's staging, by plot contrivance, trancelike acting from Pidgeon, and a dour, dejected tone. Still, Mamet's gift for contentious dialogue — a stylized staccato of interruptions and bold assertions — is on riveting display in separate exchanges between Charles and a couple of lawyers, one for him (Jordan Lage) and one against (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.). Here, the playwright
skillfully pits the concerns of the individual against those of the
group, and then declares neither side the winner.