NEW YORK (AP) — David Mamet's new play "The Anarchist" contains — shock! — not a single swear word. But some are certain to be used by theatergoers walking out after the show.
The brief play that opened Sunday at the Golden Theatre feels as sterile and lifeless as an interrogation, which it basically is — two actresses playing a verbal cat-and-mouse game. It seems more like a fragment of a play, or an acting exercise or a film short.
Mamet, who also directs, has written a bouillabaisse of intellectual thought, thick chunks of hard-core Christianity mixed with leftist political and sociological philosophies. Very smart, just not very interesting.
Patti LuPone plays Cathy, a middle-aged prison inmate seemingly based on former Weather Underground member Judith Clark, who got an indeterminate sentence behind bars after a deadly armored truck robbery.
After 35 years in prison — with a spotless prison record and a conversion to Christianity — Cathy is now pleading for clemency with the warden, Ann, played by Debra Winger.
"I have repented my crime. I have served that sentence four times in excess of that which you would have imposed on a 'mere' criminal. Why do you fear me?" Cathy asks.
Her appeal is complicated by the possibility that an accomplice might still be free and that the warden, who is leaving her job, wants to maintain a good legacy. Ann wants a sign, proof that the former revolutionary is sincere.
Running 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.
"The Prophets were demonstrably mad," says Cathy at one point.