From my seat in row N at the Golden Theater—where David Mamet’s new play The Anarchist has just opened—it was hard to tell just exactly what was going on with Debra Winger’s hair. One side was swooped up all smooth, as if it were about to be styled into a French Twist, while the other side was a confusing mass of… I don’t know. Braids? Knots? Like I said, it was hard to tell from row N. Hell if I didn’t try to sort it out, though.
You may be wondering what, exactly, this has to do with the show. This detail about a character’s wig. But honestly, this is my clearest memory of Mamet’s entire 60-minute play: staring at Debra Winger’s wig, trying to figure out what the fuck was going on/what it was supposed to say about her character.
Sure. There was a lot of very monotonous dialogue happening between Ms. Winger’s character Ann and co-star Patti LuPone’s character Cathy (who’s wig was slightly less bad). I would eventually figure out that they were debating whether or not Cathy—a convicted murderer and supposedly reformed anarchist—was worthy of being paroled, a decision Ann had direct influence over. Other details were less clear. Like whom exactly Cathy killed (some kind of a cop somewhere?), why exactly she killed him (there may have been two hims?), and why the fuck Ann wouldn’t just stop talking in circles and tell us what her decision is so we could all go have a drink.
But none of that really meant much at the time, perhaps because LuPone and Winger were so weighed down by Mament’s abstract, polemic dialogue that neither of their performances really registered. I mean honestly. For all the color and nuance happening up on that stage, Winger and LuPone may as well have been sitting at a table, doing a cold read of the script. There were moments I felt like one of the kids in Peanuts, listening to an adult mah-mwah-mwah-mwah at me.
Between marathon sessions of staring at Winger’s head, I worked hard to ignore the man slowly, slowly, slowly unwrapping a candy behind me, and checked my watch approximately six hojillion times. You’d think I was the one in prison, counting the minutes until my release. I actually cannot remember the last time an hour took so long to pass, and frankly, I’m pretty sure I’d rather not waste any more time figuring it out. Just like I don’t want to waste any more of your time writing about this soggy, contrived, snooze of a play.