Friday, October 09, 2009

David Mamet's "Oleanna"

Directed by Doug Hughes, this production in Golden Theatre starred Bill Pullman as John, a liberal professor of education, and Julia Stiles as Carol, the student who accused him of sexual harassment. What seemed so clear-cut in the first scene was shown to be riddled with assumptions in the later scenes. "The play's title, taken from a folk song, refers to a nineteenth-century escapist vision of utopia" (Wikipedia). The 1992 Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings "crystallized and concretized" Mamet's dramatization (website of David Mamet Society).

The opening dialogue, laden with miscommunication and yet thick with emotion, was typical Mamet, according to TCH. Pullman was slightly theatrical, which might be explained as his professorial manner internalized. Stiles was somewhat opaque in the first scene, but came into her own later. She was revengeful, but also hurt. Designed by Neil Patel, the set, John's office, was beautiful, but perhaps too beautiful for an academic still anxious whether he would get tenure. The play was short, more like an one-acter, elongated by the slow rolling up and down of the blinds between scenes.

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