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Review Roundup: THE ANARCHIST on Broadway Starring Patti LuPone and Debra Winger - All the Reviews!

THE ANARCHIST, a new play written and directed by David Mamet opened tonight on Broadway at the newly refurbished Golden Theatre (252 West 45th Street). The production stars two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone and three-time Academy Award nominee Debra Winger (making her Broadway debut). THE ANARCHIST features scenic and costume design by Academy Award winner Patrizia von Brandenstein and lighting design by Tony Award winner Jeff Croiter.

The world premiere production of David Mamet’s new play The Anarchist is presented on Broadway by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, and Howard & Janet Kagan.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Ben Brantley, The New York Times“Women Behind Bars” it ain’t. And Ms. LuPone and Ms. Winger must sink or swim in the thick sea of verbiage into which Mr. Mamet has thrown them. Ms. LuPone, a Mamet veteran, navigates these clotted waters like the freestyle champion she is. Ms. Winger, in her Broadway debut, mostly dog paddles.  ... That leaves Ms. LuPone to carry the emotional content of the play all by herself. She does so valiantly and compellingly, and reminds us that this Tony-winning star of musicals is a terrific dramatic actress. In her Cathy you sense the strain of a naturally arrogant woman trying to be humble and, what’s more, trying to convince herself that she believes in her humility.

Elysa Gardner, USA TodayAnarchist, which opened Sunday at the Golden Theatre, never explicitly tells us where Cathy is coming from as she makes her case to the one other person on stage: a prison official named Ann, played by Debra Winger, who will decide whether Cathy has earned her freedom. But for an intense, provocative 70 minutes, Mamet, who also directed the production, and LuPone keep us guessing.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: Patti LuPone's conviction onstage is always compelling, but otherwise this dry new David Mamet play is just a wearying lecture.

Mark Kennedy, Associated PressRunning an intermissionless 70 minutes, “The Anarchist” starts in second gear and never really speeds up or slows down, just becomes wave after wave of staccato dialogue that is more pleasant on the page than spoken. No one talks like this and the two actresses struggle to make something unnatural seem natural.

Scott Brown, NY Magazine: David Mamet's austerity program isn't working. Despite a careerlong crusade to streamline theater by sandblasting away its airy effeminacies (like acting and emoting), his latest, The Anarchist, still feels strangely gassy, even at a Spanxed 80 minutes. This despite the best efforts of the author—who’s also the director—to dehydrate a life-and-death battle of wills into a stylized white paper.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News:  LuPone and Winger are restrained to the point of somnambulance. Even at just 70 intermissionless minutes, “The Anarchist” is a challenge to sentience.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY PostThe entire 70-minute show consists of Cathy’s parole-plea meeting, with the two women tossing arguments back and forth. Mamet is slow and stingy in dispensing details, maybe in an attempt to make the encounter a pure philosophical debate. 

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily NewsSounds juicy, but sadly it isn’t really so, despite the best efforts of Patti LuPone and Debra Winger. Between its structural ambiguity and heady philosophizing, this short, dense and dry drama at the Golden Theatre is often a head-scratcher. It starts abruptly and ends the same way.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: David Mamet being David Mamet, he can write plays about whatever he damn well pleases. But he can't seriously expect Broadway auds to share his fascination with the 1960s radical politics of the Weathermen, which he explores ad nauseam in "The Anarchist." David Mamet being David Mamet, he can also direct his own play however he damn well pleases. But he does no favors for the thesps in this two-hander by enabling Debra Winger to drone on and on and Patti LuPone to swallow half her lines. Better ship this one off to the college circuit tout suite.

Linda Winer, Newsday: But "The Anarchist," which runs just 70 minutes, may well be the most severe of Mamet's hyperserious philosophical declamations, a stark and needlessly opaque debate between Cathy (LuPone), a radical prisoner who killed two cops during a leftist political act, and Ann (Winger), her caseworker for the past 35 years...More needlessly opaque debate than drama.

Matt Windman, AM NY: This simple setup surely could have made for a volatile, confrontational drama. But the 70-minute play is little more than a meandering and academic debate that’s hard to follow. While I won’t spoil the ending, let’s just say that it’s quick, random and heavy-handed, much like the rest of the play.

Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment WeeklyBut LuPone and Winger might just as well stand at lecterns, two deeply interesting, star-quality actors subsuming all that's interesting about them in service to brusque badinage between opaque symbols. And although passing mention is made of Cathy’s love of women and Ann's broken marriage, the femaleness of these (rare) female Mamet characters turns out to be of little real interest to their creator. As he recently wrote, in a newspaper feature about his own play, 'Patti LuPone plays the convict, Debra Winger plays the jailor, and there you have it.' B-

Michael Musto, The Village Voice:  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.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: There are two quite different performances here. LuPone cut her teeth on Mamet during the St. Nicholas Players days in Chicago, and she is a consummate interpreter of his works: She understands how to foreground his language without giving up the rest of what an actor does. She consumes this Cathy with a palpable hunger, forging a very shrewd and well-crafted performance. Winger, though, tends to lean back from the debate even as LuPone leans into its demands.

Erik Haagensen, BackstageThere’s the deadly whiff of self-congratulatory pretension hovering in the air at the Golden Theatre, where David Mamet’s latest play, “The Anarchist,” is occupying the stage. Inert and pedantic, more studied than any sentence Henry James ever wrote, this two-hander about the parole hearing of a political dissident jailed for 35 years for the murder of two police officers lasts for 60 interminable minutes (the production, no doubt worried about bang for the buck, claims 70 minutes, but that’s because it starts 10 minutes late). Mamet takes a potentially juicy situation and drains it of all humanity and drama. “The Anarchist” is a droning, pompous essay brought to unnatural life.

Robert Feldberg,"The Anarchist" only runs 65 minutes, but I doubt there'll be any complaints that it's too short.

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