Tag Archives: David Mamet

The Anarchist – Review


The Anarchist is a brief (in length and run) new play by David Mamet. It features two characters on stage for an uninterrupted 70 minutes. Cathy (played by Patti LuPone) is a convict serving her 35th year and Ann (played by Debra Winger) is a wardenesque woman serving her last day at the penitentiary. They are together performing the dance of “I’d like to be released now please.” And the dance is not well choreographed.

Cathy proclaims her interest in Christianity as an indication of her worthiness of release. This device is a bit blurry. She was born and raised by Jews (who it would appear gave her the name Catherine) and has discovered the New Testament in prison. Does she speak with the fervor of a tent preacher to impress the cross wearing Ann? If not, why work so much of the theology into the dialogue?  A sense of urgency is implied with the device of Ann’s last day, but why? Ann is not particularly lenient or empathetic. Maybe Cathy’s chances for being sprung will improve with a new administrator. If there is dramatic tension it’s buried too deeply to detect.

Mamet’s dialogue seems to have undergone a conversion as well. A Sunday school teacher would be pleased. However the rhythm is still quintessential Mamet. Ms. Lupone is comfortably at home in this musicality. She is at complete ease and utterly graceful with the dialogue. Ms. Winger is much less so and is not served well by Mr. Mamet’s direction. He has created a wooden and opaque portrayal in her Ann.

There are certainly interesting ideas conveyed throughout the play. Cathy’s (Weather Underground) crimes promise to evoke mixed feelings in audiences of a certain age. The psycho/social scholar will be intrigued with the debate over rehabilitation. There is also much to gain from watching Ms. LuPone stripped of song and embracing her dramatic roots. But watching The Anarchist is more akin to watching a (good) poetry reading than a play. Inserting dramatic tension into the script, recasting the role of Ann, and not having the playwright as director might result in a nice little play.

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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Sons of the Prophet – Review

Sons of the Prophet, a new play by Stephen Karam, has recently opened at the Roundabout at Laura Pels.  The play is a beautifully rendered portrait of broken people.  The (euphemistic) curtain rises with the frightening realistic sounds (M.L. Dogg) of a car crash.  The remaining two hour narrative then centers around the accident, which eventually claims the life of the Douaihy patriarch.  It is a relatively simple story which is told with and honesty and artistry rarely seen.  Directed by Peter DuBois, and with a cast of eight ranging from award winning Joanna Gleason to those making their New York premiere, the production achieves musicality.  When David Mamet plays are done well, they can sound like a well seasoned jazz band.  Sons of the Prophet is jazz as well, but gentler, softer, more whole notes than black keys.  There is a realism, as in when people talk over one another, partnered with perfectly modulated (non-amplified) tones that intensifies the drama.

The Douaiy family is distantly related to Khalil Gibran (hence the title of the play) and projected references to his tome are used to wonderful effect.  The sets (Anna Louizos) are very clever and are incredibly helpful in a play with more than a dozen scenes.  This play is crafted so well, and is so very honest in its depiction of human beings.  But it is the performances that really make it soar.  Ms. Gleason (looking ravishing) plays her character, Gloria, as if she is made of glass.  It is a gorgeous performance of a not entirely sympathetic character.  The other standouts (for me) were Yusef Bulos (Uncle Bill) and Chris Perfetti (Charles.)  I felt as if I was voyeur, peeking into the window of an interesting family.

It is also worth mentioning that this very moving drama is hysterically funny.  Knee slapping, choking on candy, funny.  I know it’s a good time when I get dirty looks from those around me.  I think it safe to say that this play will appeal to almost everyone.  If laughing, or crying is not your thing, perhaps the scathing commentary on the state of our nation’s healthcare system might appeal to you.  This production will stay with me for some time.  There were so many moments, silent and otherwise, that spoke to the complexities of life.  At its core, it is a meditation on life.  A messy meditation, created not for pages with pithy chapter titles, but for very talented artists and a grateful audience.


Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Race – Review

I (finally) saw David Mamet’s Race this weekend at the fabulous Ethel Barrymore Theatre.  Much has been written about Mamet’s latest plays being “less than Mamet.”  I am not a huge proponent of holding artists to a rigid historical framework, yet went to this production with just a bit of apprehension.  If the critics (professional and water cooler alike) find Mamet’s more recent works to be less explosive and edgy, I would agree.  If they are equating the fading of sizzle and the increase of substance to be an indication of talent slippage, I would disagree.  Race is powerful in the way that Mamet is always powerful.  The use of language is intoxicating, the rhythms hypnotic, and the respect for the audience palpable.  We are made to question the questions posed.  There is subtext that is presented, not pretentiously, but dramatically.  There are elements in the storyline similar to Doubt, and clearly the audience left the theatre in a similar; “did he, didn’t he?” manner.  The cast (in classic Mamet style) is comprised of four characters.  Also, classically Mamet, is the poor female character.  Whether the cartoonishly drawn female has become his intentional hallmark or not, it is there, as predictable as a Hirschfeld “Nina.”

The plot centers around a wealthy white man (Richard Thomas) accused of raping a black woman.  The attorneys considering representing Mr. Thomas are played exquisitely by James Spader and David Alan Grier.  Their assistant is a young woman of color (Kerry Washington.)  Directed by Mr. Mamet, on an old fashioned slanted stage, creating great sight lines and interesting subtext.  Mr. Thomas displays utterly convincing mannerism of the manor born.  There was a moment, when Spader, Grier, and Thomas were on stage together, that I briefly thought of the different decades of pop-culture they represented (In Living Color, Brat Pack, Waltons) but that is entirely my own issue, and not that of the actors or the production!

Ms. Washington is not served by her part or direction.  She is stilted and not believable as a person, let alone a neophyte or con-artist (we’re never sure which.)  Elizabeth Moss was recently able to break out of the Mamet female stranglehold in Speed the Plow.  I would suggest, that Ms Moss is the exception.  The only other distraction in the production is a strange pause between scenes in the second act.  It is not needed dramatically or technically and is just kind of bizarre.

If you love language, if you have any interest in race, politics or sociology, or if you simply love seeing brilliant performances, this is the play for you.  It was entirely refreshing to leave a play feeling intellectually challenged and respected.  The cast could be perceived as interlopers (although all are stage actors) and this could be seen by some as a ‘bold face’ name production.  It did not feel star studded in the least (even William H Macy and his wife, seated in front of me did not disturb the lack of glamorousness of the production.)  Perhaps when all is said and done, I’ll take multi-layered substance over sizzle any day.

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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Uncategorized


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