Marilyn Stasio, Variety: David Mamet being David Mamet, he can write plays about whatever he damn well pleases. But he can't seriously expect Broadway auds to share his fascination with the 1960s radical politics of the Weathermen, which he explores ad nauseam in "The Anarchist." David Mamet being David Mamet, he can also direct his own play however he damn well pleases. But he does no favors for the thesps in this two-hander by enabling Debra Winger to drone on and on and Patti LuPone to swallow half her lines. Better ship this one off to the college circuit tout suite.
Linda Winer, Newsday: But "The Anarchist," which runs just 70 minutes, may well be the most severe of Mamet's hyperserious philosophical declamations, a stark and needlessly opaque debate between Cathy (LuPone), a radical prisoner who killed two cops during a leftist political act, and Ann (Winger), her caseworker for the past 35 years...More needlessly opaque debate than drama.
Matt Windman, AM NY: This simple setup surely could have made for a volatile, confrontational drama. But the 70-minute play is little more than a meandering and academic debate that’s hard to follow. While I won’t spoil the ending, let’s just say that it’s quick, random and heavy-handed, much like the rest of the play.
Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: But LuPone and Winger might just as well stand at lecterns, two deeply interesting, star-quality actors subsuming all that's interesting about them in service to brusque badinage between opaque symbols. And although passing mention is made of Cathy’s love of women and Ann's broken marriage, the femaleness of these (rare) female Mamet characters turns out to be of little real interest to their creator. As he recently wrote, in a newspaper feature about his own play, 'Patti LuPone plays the convict, Debra Winger plays the jailor, and there you have it.' B-
Michael Musto, The Village Voice: Fortunately, the imprisoned lady (named Cathy) is played by Patti LuPone, who's superb in her composure and reasoning, and Ann is Debra Winger, who's also terrific (though she has the more thankless task of conducting the relentless inquisition, often with staccato stolidness). If you ask me, I'm still glad to have been part of the mob who demanded an original drama, but The Anarchist could have used a lot more blood and tears. At approximately 70 minutes long, it also could have used another short play to round out the evening.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: There are two quite different performances here. LuPone cut her teeth on Mamet during the St. Nicholas Players days in Chicago, and she is a consummate interpreter of his works: She understands how to foreground his language without giving up the rest of what an actor does. She consumes this Cathy with a palpable hunger, forging a very shrewd and well-crafted performance. Winger, though, tends to lean back from the debate even as LuPone leans into its demands.
Erik Haagensen, Backstage: There’s the deadly whiff of self-congratulatory pretension hovering in the air at the Golden Theatre, where David Mamet’s latest play, “The Anarchist,” is occupying the stage. Inert and pedantic, more studied than any sentence Henry James ever wrote, this two-hander about the parole hearing of a political dissident jailed for 35 years for the murder of two police officers lasts for 60 interminable minutes (the production, no doubt worried about bang for the buck, claims 70 minutes, but that’s because it starts 10 minutes late). Mamet takes a potentially juicy situation and drains it of all humanity and drama. “The Anarchist” is a droning, pompous essay brought to unnatural life.
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: "The Anarchist" only runs 65 minutes, but I doubt there'll be any complaints that it's too short.