Closed 1h 30m
The Penitent
Chelsea
61

The Penitent NYC Reviews and Tickets

61%
(113 Reviews)
Positive
40%
Mixed
41%
Negative
19%
Members say
Disappointing, Thought-provoking, Slow, Intelligent, Indulgent

About the Show

Atlantic Theater Company presents a world premiere drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist and Atlantic co-founder David Mamet ('Glengarry Glen Ross,' 'China Doll.')

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Member Reviews (113)

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75
Intelligent, Clever, Slow, Thought-provoking, Dry

See it if Principles vs. self-interest. The pace picks up in the second act. The revelations make you rethink the motivations of the characters.

Don't see it if The first (and longer) act is belabored. Characters repeat themselves and don't seem to act sensibly. Could use more wit/humor.

64
Disappointing, Slow, Intelligent, Indulgent, Intense

See it if Has glimpses of Mamet's former thunder & intellegence but feels more like a Mamet parody Bauer (looking like the author) & Lage do fine work

Don't see it if Too many cheap shots taken at powerful institutions doesn't constitute drama. Pepe's direction feels stilted & ending is totally contrived

Critic Reviews (34)

February 27th, 2017

"The relationship that fails to excite Mr. Mamet and his longtime collaborator, the director Neil Pepe, is the one between audience and play...And yet, if you prick up your ears, you can still hear a little of that old Mametian magic...He makes the plot take a couple of pretty unlikely turns...This blurs the play’s focus and weakens the surprise of its finish. The ending of 'The Penitent' pulls the rug out from under us, but that rug has already been worn pretty thin."
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February 27th, 2017

“Under-conceived and underwritten…It feels wrong to describe Mamet's interchanges as conversations. All of them are arguments had in bad faith; certainly, little effort has been made to make them sound like human speech…The marks of something hastily written are all over the text, and its world is badly imagined and unbelievable. An accidentally hilarious denouement tries to power-pack action into the dull tale.”
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February 27th, 2017

"The worse tragedy of Mamet, more than his political conversion, is that his later works mostly bore and repel as plays. In 'The Penitent,' the dialogue maintains the artillery rhythms of his early work but there is no sensible character motive behind it; it chases itself in circles and often sounds as if it were erratically transcribed from hackneyed genre movies. The cast, under Neil Pepe’s clumsy direction, doesn’t help much."
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February 27th, 2017

"Yet another clunker...Whereas Mamet’s stylized dialogue once crackled with electricity and tension, it now plays as hopelessly stilted. The mannerisms have become irritating, and the characters come across less as real people than mouthpieces for the ideas the playwright wants to express...The evening runs a scant 90 minutes, including an unnecessary intermission (perhaps a considerate gesture to playgoers wishing to flee), but it feels interminable."
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February 27th, 2017

"To a wordsmith like Mamet, a slip of the tongue can be fatal for a character – although it’s difficult to care too much either way in this limp drama...Director Neil Pepe’s affinity for Mamet-speak can’t fill in the plot holes...Bauer makes a hearty meal of Mamet’s juicy dialogue...But it’s hard to grasp why the psychiatrist feels complicit in his patient’s crime — and harder still to understand his conflict of faith and ethics when the reason for it is withheld until it’s too late to care."
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March 2nd, 2017

"Each scene in this chamber piece leaves Charles, for all his high principles, haplessly outpaced...He misreads and is misread. And we too are uncertain about how to judge and how much to trust. But alas, our understanding of his dislocation never coheres. We are never fully convinced about either the plausibility of these events or of the characters’ motivations...The play is like a domestic dispute that has gone on too long without an outsider’s perspective."
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February 28th, 2017

“It’s intermittently sparky writing but ultimately lazy drama, with an ending that’s less a surprise twist than a playwright’s admission that even he’s too bored to go on."
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February 27th, 2017

"The press, the law, psychiatry, religion, marriage and friendship all get bashed in this intriguing but flawed drama...A late surprise changes everything that's come before—and is meant to surprise. It annoys instead, since the supposed big reveal would’ve come out by the defendant. Directed by Atlantic Theatre head Neil Pepe, the acting is 75% capable. The less said about the mannered performance by Pidgeon, Mamet’s wife, the better."
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February 27th, 2017

"A blog post masquerading as a drama...Every line feels hammered into the script in order to force the story toward its predetermined outcome...The actors deliver uniformly stiff performances as a result of this wooden dialogue...The story is presented in a series of seven scenes separated by unnecessarily lengthy blackouts, which sap what little energy and tension the show has built."
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March 2nd, 2017

"Doctor-patient privilege, religion and infidelity are all worked into the mix, so much so that the story seems unbelievably loaded with twists, but that's part of the entertaining quality of it all, as are the elevated verbal rhythms that Mamet orchestrates so well into his dialogue. But even with the unnecessary intermission, Pepe's production takes up only eighty minutes, and 'The Penitent' might be more satisfying if paired with another short piece."
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February 27th, 2017

“Mamet finds his firmest footing in Act II…The scenes are few but crisp and to the point…Sadly, getting there is far less than half the fun. The first act is a convoluted slog...dragged down by Mamet's prosaic, uninspiring dialogue…Lage, however, is outstanding as Richard…Pidgeon is stilted and starchy throughout...But I doubt that this evening would work much better if Kath's evolution were clearer; even the best acting can mitigate a lack of energizing content only so much."
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March 10th, 2017

"David Mamet's best new play in years, 'The Penitent' is a thought-provoking exercise in the great dilemmas and conflicts that, eventually, touch all of us."
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March 9th, 2017

"In typical Mamet fashion, all of this unfolds quickly and sporadically, and both Bauer and Lage do a nice job of punching the language and finding its musicality...Pidgeon, on the other hand, recites the words in a bizarrely stylized manner...Her lines feel void and flaccid, sucking the momentum out of her scenes...The strength of this Mamet piece is in its ideas: wrapped up in the archetype of the penitent are faith, regret, sin and forgiveness."
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February 28th, 2017

“Director Neil Pepe never lets the intensity lag. He keeps his actors on their toes, resulting in a satisfyingly taut production...'The Penitent' doesn’t quite make it to the finish line. Mamet plays his cards too close to the vest, with too many major revelations coming in the last five minutes of the piece. Still it’s an engrossing drama. Brilliantly on track for most of its length, its derailments don’t neutralize the vigor of its verbal choreography."
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March 3rd, 2017

"What once had snap, crackle and pop now feels unnatural, forced and, yes, boring. Despite his affinity for Mamet, director Pepe's staging doesn't help. Bauer, as the main character who's always on stage, fares best...however, not enough so to rescue this from not just minor but painfully disappointing Mamet territory...Frankly, 'The Penitent' is less a play than a series of arguments designed to stick it to the unethical behavior in the legal, psychiatric, media and religious communities."
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March 1st, 2017

“If you’re a theater lover you’ll certainly want to see ‘The Penitent'...Is it a great play? Yes. Great production? Not so fast...Mamet’s wife Rebecca Pidgeon is his favorite leading lady. But is she right for this role?…Bauer gets caught in Pidgeon’s odd rhythms. Luckily, in his scenes with the other two actors...Bauer shakes off her influence and turns in a fine performance. A stronger hand is needed at the helm here, but the material is worth the trip."
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March 2nd, 2017

"Director Neil Pepe has a tough job with characters that begin at a not too far away distance from where they end. It must be difficult to guide a cast whose job it is to act as a thin veil for Mamet’s temper. The dialogue -- that famous Mamet Speak that interrupts and overlaps and pauses at brief, measured counts -- comes to life only hastily, in particular during the one scene in which Gilliard Jr. and Bauer appear together, but from Pidgeon’s mouth, it may as well be Morse Code."
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March 9th, 2017

"It’s a bitter trip into a dark psyche...The play is 90 minutes long, and far too much of that time is spent rearranging Tim Mackabee’s sparse set for reasons that never quite pay off...What remains is a series of linguistic back and forths whose solutions are elusive and insufficiently intriguing...Ultimately, audiences may feel that rather than going on a journey with Mamet, they’ve merely gone around in circles."
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February 27th, 2017

"Mamet has structured 'The Penitent' so that information is parceled out in stingy pieces. Some of this is surely for dramatic effect, particularly a revelation at the end that is undoubtedly meant to knock us out. But this approach winds up undercutting his thematic explorations...And that ending (which I won’t reveal) is not only implausible to the point of self-parody; it negates or at least clouds all the intellectual debate that’s gone before it."
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B
February 28th, 2017

“While it’s by no means Mamet’s worst, it falls far short of his best work...The stilted opening scene really gets things off to a bad start…The second act begins energetically with a scene between Charles and an attorney (the fine Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) deposing him…The press, the legal system, psychiatry, religion, marriage and friendship all take a beating. There are no winners here, including the audience.”
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February 27th, 2017

"'The Penitent' isn’t so much a play as an argument. Mamet watchers are used to that. What makes 'The Penitent' not only thinner but also phony is the final scene where a character lets go with two bomblets that pretty much negate the previous 70 minutes...Not that 'The Penitent' is ever riveting...Under Neil Pepe’s direction, the actors move the chairs and table every which way in the relative darkness...It is amazing how many ways there are to arrange two chairs and one table."
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March 5th, 2017

“It seems to go round and round at times in repeating the issues laid out for us. Although one can be absorbed, there is thinness in this Mamet play, which lacks the bite of his better works. My main enjoyment came from watching Pidgeon…Her performance gives the play a consistent edge. Neil Pepe’s direction unfolds the succession of intimate scenes effectively, but there is nothing that he can do to whitewash the fact that the play itself, although always interesting, is Mamet light.”
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February 27th, 2017

"Mamet's new straw-man polemic takes less than 90 minutes to pile simplistic criticism onto the legal system, journalism, psychiatry, love, religion and the ethical culpability of those involved with any of the above...Conversations come in short scenes and dialogue interruptions—familiar Mamet techniques used for far better effect in so many earlier works. The generalizations are banal and, even when Mamet intentionally infuriates, these are not interesting minds with which to argue."
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February 27th, 2017

"In Mamet’s best plays, offbeat speech patterns often give a charge to what’s being said; here, even under the direction of long-time Mamet collaborator Neil Pepe, the exchanges are dry, dramatically parched...'The Penitent' is better than Mamet’s last Broadway play, the unfortunate 'China Doll.' But it’s a long distance from the work that made him one of America’s most significant playwrights."
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February 28th, 2017

“Mamet and director Neil Pepe do succeed in conjuring a bleak atmosphere where principle, however misplaced, falls prey to the jaws of bureaucracy. There are also flashes of the playwright’s old talent for brutal verbal jousting...But, for the most part, the actors fail to breathe any real life into their staccato exchanges while the exposition is at once clunky and confusing. The underlying theme of reactionary victimhood also sits uneasily with recent political developments.”
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February 27th, 2017

"Mamet’s play is often a jumble of non-cohesive ideas, but it still holds together better than recent pieces such as 'The Anarchist' and 'China Doll.' Viewed as an indictment of journalism or the law—take your pick—'The Penitent' is timely and exciting and, in the best of ways, awfully depressing...Overall, my response here was warm-ish. Some themes pop up like a muddled game of socioreligious whack-a-mole, but the play itself entertains and boasts a variety of interesting performances."
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March 1st, 2017

“Mamet’s misanthropic leanings can make crackling good drama…Here, however, the effect is blunted, as the characters seem to be inhabiting a vacuum…As the arguments get chewed over and over, things begin to seem pretty repetitious...On the plus side, Mamet’s dialogue impresses with command of language and the ability to make clear his character’s points of view...And the actors, for the most part, deliver the dialogue with the kind of conviction that makes you keep listening. "
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February 27th, 2017

"But to me, at least, [the play] also feels like the whining of a put-upon old man; it is unfortunate that Charles' complaints about newspapers match up so neatly with Trumpist anti-intellectualism, but I don't think it is entirely accidental, either."
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March 1st, 2017

"'The Penitent' reminds us of Mamet's tremendous gifts for rapid-fire dialogue and political provocation. Yet despite an intriguing first act, which finds Mamet in furious attack mode, railing against the media and liberal political correctness, 'The Penitent' ultimately feels like a rough draft rushed into production...There are interesting ideas and maybe even a coherent play buried here, and the cast is solid, but Mamet should probably take 'The Penitent' back to the drawing board."
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February 27th, 2017

"Mamet has penned a moral and ethical dilemma that really has no answer but leaves lots of questions. It's done in an ingenious style of giving you only some of the facts, making you guess at others and revealing a key element right at the end, which only serves to make you reflect back upon the entire play...Bauer held court in most every scene...Pidgeon was a bit stilted and awkward...A gripping and thought-provoking drama."
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T
March 10th, 2017

"This is one of Mamet's most thought-provoking plays, and the dialogue is especially rich...Capturing the rhythms of Mamet’s clipped overlapping lines of dialogue with utmost finesse, his long time collaborator, director Neil Pepe is at the top of his game. Building complex relationships, peeling away at triangulation and betrayal with a formidable eye to revealing the truth...The acting is uniformly excellent. Bauer brings a soulful thoughtfulness to his role."
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February 27th, 2017

"This new work is a well crafted exploration of ethics, responsibility and religious salvation...Mamet has intentionally not drawn full, three-dimensional characters. The play is less about the personal lives and relationships of the three main characters, but more a sort of sequence of debates, increasing in complexity as legal pressures mount...Neil Pepe’s direction and the work of the designers...keeps the audience in a state of objectivity–we are involved with the ideas."
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March 12th, 2017

"This play is stupid, and sorry but no, 'New York Times,' it isn’t a 'boxing match,' it’s well-ordered responses to obvious points nobody would ever say. Director Neil Pepe paces every scene the same. Plot. More plot. Twist? Plot. Yawn...Jordan Lage is however terrific as the lawyer Richard and nearly makes Mamet’s nonsensical legal advice sound good. Nearly...'The Penitent' is 90 minutes, with an intermission. That was too long."
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February 28th, 2017

“So here you’ve got Pidgeon, who’s married to Mamet and clearly has been directed by him—a lot. And the result is some of the most wooden acting I’ve ever seen. No listening whatsoever…The three men in the play are solid enough…Does one stand up for truth to the exclusion of all else?...It’s one of life’s more important questions, and 'The Penitent' does a good job of giving your mind something to chew on, post-show.”
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