In “The Anarchist,” by David Mamet, a former political radical who has served 35 years in jail argues for clemency from a prison official who holds the power to set her free.
Is a second chance in the cards? Perhaps the more relevant question for audiences is whether “The Anarchist” — which flopped on Broadway — deserves one.
For its Los Angeles premiere, two actresses who are no strangers to the playwright’s particular universe have signed on to make the case. Felicity Huffman plays Cathy, the incarcerated leftist who claims to have found Christ, and Rebecca Pidgeon is Ann, her stoic interrogator.
Over the years, they have navigated Mamet’s dialogue numerous times on stage and screen. But in a recent interview, even they conceded that “The Anarchist” has been far from easy.
“I would say this is the most difficult play I’ve ever done,” said Pidgeon. “This wins the gold medal.”
Huffman used a more Mamet-esque description: ” ‘Oh … !’ That was going through my head,” she recalled thinking at the first read-through.
She said the play contains such intricate speech that “it takes me almost two hours to learn a page.”
Both actresses were seated in Hollywood’s Theatre Asylum — a small stage with fewer than 99 seats — where “The Anarchist” is running through late May.
It’s a world away from the 800-seat John Golden Theatre in New York, where the play opened with Patti LuPone and Debra Winger in 2012.
“The Anarchist” was an unconventional choice for Broadway, given its dense, philosophical power plays and minimalist setup — two women in a room, talking.
The play, which runs just 70 minutes, met a quick demise following mostly negative reviews and poor box office. It was a significant setback for Mamet, the Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist famous for “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Oleanna” and “Speed-the-Plow.”
Both Huffman and Pidgeon said they believe “The Anarchist” is better suited for a small stage.
“I’m so glad we’re here and not at a bigger theater. This tiny, intimate space is claustrophobic, and it feels like the audience is in the room with us,” said Pidgeon. “There’s nowhere to hide here. You’re almost part of the play.”
Huffman said “The Anarchist” requires that audiences be alert and attentive. You “can’t space out because you’re 200 seats back,” she said
Read the entire article at LATimes.com