Imagine a game of “philosophical tennis” in which the competitors lob theoretical bon mots at each other. Except no one is keeping score, because in this case the audience is too detached from the piece to do so.
The only redeeming quality of the L.A. premiere of David Mamet’s play The Anarchist — which closed on Broadway after only 17 performances in 2012 — is a chance to see Felicity Huffman and Rebecca Pidgeon showcase their talents in an intimate space, which they do admirably. But the words coming out of their mouths carry little dramatic weight, serving instead to show off Mamet’s vocabulary and etymological skills.
The basic storyline of this thinly veiled screed against government revolves around prison inmate Cathy (Huffman) and her parole officer, Ann (Pidgeon). They meet in a drab office with 1970s-style wood paneling to discuss Cathy’s potential release after 35 years because her father is dying. Cathy was imprisoned for killing two police officers during her youthful, anarchic days, and the thrust of the piece becomes whether she will finally out her accomplice, as Ann requires proof of Cathy’s rehabilitation.
Director Marja-Lewis Ryan does solid work here, but she has a much less compelling text to work with than she did in last year’s fantastic One In The Chamber. And while Talmudic argument can be compelling by nature, as in David Ives’ New Jerusalem, it must also engage dramatically and emotionally.
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Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; through May 23. (323) 960-7784, plays411.com/anarchist
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