Banal, Flat, Predictable, Low key
See it if
You'd appreciate a stretched out writing exercise or a mostly advanced scene study class with third year directing/second year staging.
Don't see it if
You're expecting a fully realized play, sensible plot and dramatic structure or want to see vintage Mamet.
Short, with a creaky, sieve-like plot whose anemic machinations are obvious a mile away, The Penitent has all the earmarks of a graduate acting class: effective if basic lighting, ambient sound & minimal, actor-supplied props & scene changes.
Because it's a Mamet show, however, the most fascinating thing here, by far, is Rebecca Pidgeon—the actual Mrs Mamet—here confronted by Chris Bauer as an obvious Mamet stand-in, complete with Mamet glasses & beard.
Her voice has an interesting lilt, but her delivery is so incredibly stilted, so either very deliberate or inept, that it seems to speak volumes about her relationship with Mamet, at the same time serving to reveal and deconstruct the rhythm & form of the dialogue, its structure & technique; like being shown how a card trick is done.
Contrast that with Bauer and Laurence Gilliard Jr.’s smoothly-timed and seamless repartée in the best scene of the evening, or Bauer and Jordan Lage's conversational scenes, the difference is stark.