“Bring on some original dramas already!” we pundits always cry, desperate for new blood in the midst of the endless barrage of revivals and tourist shows.
But this season, that’s led to some insubstantial fare like the religious drama Grace, the porn comedy The Performers, and the unpersuasive satire on swindling, Dead Accounts.
Alas, David Mamet‘s The Anarchist doesn’t reverse that trend.
A two-character talkfest, with a woman who’s been imprisoned for 35 years for a radical act arguing with the lady representing “the state” that she deserves her release, it’s intellectually way above most Broadway dramas, but it never ignites into any kind of riveting showdown.
The two characters cover some heady takes on topics from religious to sexuality to fate, and Mamet’s brilliant mind generously spills out into some of the discourse.
But some banalities seep into the dialogue too, and the result feels more like an idea being grilled by a question mark than any true exchange between humans.
In fact, when the imprisoned lady called the matron by her name, Ann, I was momentarily jarred into remembering, “Oh, yeah these are supposed to be people!”
Fortunately, the imprisoned lady (named Cathy) is played by Patti LuPone, who’s superb in her composure and reasoning, and Ann is Debra Winger, who’s also terrific (though she has the more thankless task of conducting the relentless inquisition, often with staccato stolidness).
If you ask me, I’m still glad to have been part of the mob who demanded an original drama, but The Anarchist could have used a lot more blood and tears.
At approximately 70 minutes long, it also could have used another short play to round out the evening.