Thursday, December 06, 2012

Debra Winger in The Anarchist
Janet Lawler
New York
December 6, 2012

Debra Winger made some great movies.  Remember her in "Urban Cowboy" with John Travolta?  She was unknown, but stole screen time from then red-hot Travolta.   

Next, she stood toe to toe with Richard Gere in "An Officer and a Gentleman" -- he lifted her off her feet and carried her out of that paper factory -- making movie history -- but it was Winger who in the very last frame of the movie put on his naval cap to make a statement -- 

She took control -- just ask Shirley MacLaine, her costar in another fave "Terms of Endearment".   Soon Hollywood said Winger was difficult.  Winger said she didn't care.  She just wanted to make good movies.  Good parts for women.

Those good parts dwindled and Debra Winger left the movies.  She married actor Arliss Howard and resided to upstate New York to raise her family.  She wrote a memoir "Undiscovered" in 2008.  She resurfaced on screen again in "Rachel Getting Married".  She did some TV -- namely, Law and Order.

She's currently making her Broadway debut in "The Anarchist".
Playwright David Mamet

It's a new play written and directed by David Mamet.  I saw it recently in previews -- it stars not only Winger, but legendary actress Patti LuPone.  Both women in a new Mamet play? I couldn't dial the box-office fast enough...
Patti LuPone and Debra Winger

Unfortunately, the play didn't live up to my excitement.  The actors are fine -- but putting LuPone and Winger in a two-character play and never experiencing any true DRAMA between them is a waste.  Instead of fireworks on stage we got a fizzle of conflict. 

A dud.  Sadly.

The NY Times just announced that the play is closing.  It opened December 3rd.  It will go dark by December 16th.  Sad.  Imagine all the work, rehearsing, investing that went into this play?  But the reviewers were dreadful and worse on social media.  The play runs like 70 minutes... without an intermission.  The audience felt cheated.  (Let's not even mention the wardrobe and hair the actresses had to endure).

Can't blame Winger or LuPone.  It's the playwright who let us down.  David Mamet - famous or not -- gave us a play he never fully developed.  The characters never evolved.  I didn't care about either one or their predicament.  It was a Q and A between a prisoner and a warden (or parole officer).  The audience kept waiting for the pay off... a big secret revealed by end?  None.  A memorable moment between two powerhouse actresses?  None. Crackling dialogue?  None.  Not even a Mamet F-bomb to wake us up.

And then lights out.  WHAT?

We wanted to stand and give an ovation to the actresses for being punished before our eyes -- and not just because they were in a prison play.  We felt their pain.  We were imprisoned in our seats -- that cost a pretty penny.

We poured onto W.45th Street after the play scratching our heads.  It was barely 9PM and the play is over?  I heard one guy say "Is it really over? Now what do we do?  Go have a drink?  Walk around Times Square?"   To me, it felt like the play never began. 

So my search for Debra Winger goes on... (see the documentary Searching for Debra Winger

I'll support her next book, next film, or play.  I'm happy she's back and working.  She still has it... that deadpan delivery of a line... that she used with Travolta, Gere and MacLaine.  The raspy voice that, unfortunately, David Mamet didn't fully take advantage of this time.

The Anarchist is playing at the Golden Theatre in New York City.

Until next time.

1 comment:

Barbara Forte Abate said...

I've missed Debra Winger and am so disappointed to hear that her return was less than "Sparkly." This peculiar choice of stage vehicles has me wondering WHY on multiple levels. Nevertheless, love your review of the evening, Janet. Great fun for those of who didn't actually shell out the $$$ or have to sit through the pain of watching a train wreck!