Fuzzy the penitent
New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

The Penitent

From 34 critic and 113 member reviews
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.') More…

In 'The Penitent' a renowned psychiatrist is asked to testify on behalf of a young patient. When he refuses, his career, ethics, and faith are thrown into question. Helmed by Atlantic's artistic director Neil Pepe.

Theater Life

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Front Row Center

“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." Full Review

Act Three - The Reviews

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“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." Full Review


"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"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." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

“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.” Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

“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.” Full Review


“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. " Full Review


"'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." Full Review

Epoch Times

“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.” Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

The New York Times

"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." Full Review

New York Daily News

"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." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“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." Full Review


“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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

“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.” Full Review

Stage Buddy

"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." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"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." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"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." Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if U like drama

Don't see it if Only like musicals

Clever, Intelligent, Profound, Good acting, Solid

See it if you like Mamet and you'd like to see something new with his inimitable style. Good play!

Don't see it if you hate to think and Rebecca Pigeon's acting style grates on your nerves

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you enjoy David Mamet's writing style, and enjoy good acting.

Don't see it if you are just looking for pure entertainment, or if you want a light, comedy that doesn't make you think or question the topic.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Profound, Relevant

See it if stay current to news events

Don't see it if you want a comedy

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if Appreciate Mamet and understand serious themes that stay with you after leaving theater

Don't see it if Want a vicarious experience

Absorbing, Intelligent, Profound, Quirky, Great writing

See it if you like a quiet, introspective piece

Don't see it if you lean towards lighter fare.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great writing

See it if You are a fan of David Mamet, like tight construction and spare staginess or enjoy truthful acting. Intriguing premise, clever writing

Don't see it if You like flashiness, a lot of stage effects or want overt theatricality. If you hate simple staging and truthful acting avid this.

Also This is an underrated Mamet play. perhaps he suffers from comparisons ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Profound, Relevant

See it if you enjoy a play that requires you to think and confront serious issues regarding the law, doctor patient confidentiality and religion.

Don't see it if you prefer theater that does not encourage deep thought and later discussion.

Also All the actors were great except for the female lead who's performance... Read more Read less

Mamet still at it

See it if Mamet is an acquired taste. Staccato line readings and smart actors with pinpoint control reign. Fine male roles. Bauer's calling card.

Don't see it if you prefer female POV. Kath is weakest role; performance could be stronger. Intermission superfluous.

Also Askew set is jarring and contributes to the unease and danger play att... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if you like a thought provoking drama. The set was simple and so you concentrate completely on the people, mostly one on one conversations.

Don't see it if you enjoy lively dramas and light humor.

Absorbing and excrutiating in equal measure

See it if the work of an old pro whose skills may be slipping but who remains by turns both annoying and provocative.

Don't see it if you prefer the speed, the pace, and the eccentricities that are common in most contemporary plays.

Also No need to repeat others’ comments about the acting, the staging, the ... Read more Read less

Dry, Clever, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Slow

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.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if If you like Mamet. I enjoyed the play and found it very interesting.

Don't see it if You haven't liked other Mamet plays.

Clever, Edgy, Intense, Indulgent, Well written

See it if the story of one allegedly standing up for a principle is of interest, but this character loses everything fighting for nothing.

Don't see it if you have an opportunity to see Hitchcock's THE WRONG MAN, which is better.

Edgy, Great acting, Intelligent, Indulgent, Mannered

See it if you like Mamet and enjoy actors who specialize in his style.

Don't see it if you dislike Mamet or have never seen his work (there are much better places to start.)

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you like plays of ideas, tinged with some relevance (press manipulation of truth, dr/patient confidentiality, etc), & don't mind imperfect

Don't see it if you worship Mamet (because this doesn't stand up to his best) or you're looking for a non-serious work, comedy, or musical

Clever, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Cliched

See it if You like Mamet language and dialogue Interesting ideas raised bot somewhat hard to believe liked but not loved it

Don't see it if Hate Mamet dialogue and looking for a realistic story

Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking, Disappointing

See it if Not one of Mamet's best, but makes you think. Good acting,minimal staging.Makes you wonder about psychiatrists.

Don't see it if Have better things to do and don't like Mamet.

Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Slow

See it if for the unusual Mametesque speech cadences.

Don't see it if had potential to be intense but so uneventful and bland.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Indulgent, Great writing

See it if you love Mamet. It's great to hear his dialogue and see him wrestling with contemporary issues. A big glib but still worth seeing.

Don't see it if You are looking for light entertainment that doesn't provoke thought and further rumination.

Ambitious, Indulgent, Disappointing, Cliched

See it if You enjoy shows that do a lot of talking. Each character is a familiar-predictable type. Rationalization for action taken is chilling.

Don't see it if You don't prefer David Mamet style of theater. This one is like Oleanna. That should say enough.

Intelligent whiny religious confusing

See it if Intelligent but talky Mamet about duplicity in law, medicine and journalism. Some intense dialogue about religion and ethics.

Don't see it if could be a snooze for some. i found it stimulating most of the time, but the dialogue between the doctor and his wife was annoying

Also Spoiler- the shrink was criticized for refusing to testify in the boy'... Read more Read less

Clever, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you enjoy great writing, other Mamet plays, and interesting dialogue.

Don't see it if you need big sets and fast-paced action.

Absorbing, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you like gritty, off center, edgy plays that don't always stay on target but deliver a punch and a great live experience

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with topics of racism and sexual crimes and corruption, or if you want a lighthearted night at the theater

Great acting, Disappointing, Slow, Well intentioned, Mamet-esque

See it if you want to see some good acting overall & are prepared for a halting Mamet-esque style and writing. If you go, stay for Act II.

Don't see it if you aren't prepared to be puzzled and unsure thru much of the piece. Or want to see HAMILTON.

Cast & Creatives (10)