David Mamet’s Oleanna is an intellectual drama about a power struggle between a college professor on the verge of tenure and a student having trouble in his class. Should you see it?
David Mamet’s Oleanna is an intelligent, fast-paced drama about power, who has it, and how a seemingly innocent act can be misinterpreted and spin deeply into a world of unintended consequences. The play is a two hander between a self-important college professor with anger management issues and a mousy student who’s seemingly in way over her head. At the outset, Carol (the student) has met with the professor to discuss a paper she failed and how she pretty much has no understanding of any of the course material. Without giving away the farm, complications ensue.
There are a lot of interesting themes played with in Oleanna from how one person’s intent may be perceived entirely differently by the recipient, to the responsibility and the relationship between a person of authority and those under them.
It plays out over three long scenes, running just about 75 minutes, on a simple office-styled set designed by Iain Moggach who also directed Oleanna and did a good job emphasizing the power shift with costume and set changes.
Jonah Lerner, steps into the shoes of the erudite and home-stressed professor, and first impresses with his ability to rifle off a lot of fast-paced, intellectual-type dialogue (the kind that reminds me why I avoided academia) but also commands a powerful emotional journey as a man largely in control of his fortune to, well, a man who’s less so. Laura Abramsen as Carol doesn’t have the giant mouthfuls of dialogue Lerner does but is equally talented leading us through Carol’s opposite journey – from mousy and meek into her position of power over the professor.
I had some problems with the ending but these two talented actors will take full hold of your attention and draw you into their struggle, resulting in a solid, compelling drama.
As of publishing, you have one last chance to see Red Collective’s presentation of David Mamet’s Oleanna, playing at Saw Gallery – August 5th at 8pm.
Especially if you’ve been wanting to see some well-written and performed though-provoking theatre, cancel whatever plans you have and go see this.
What did you think of Oleanna? Who was in the right? I had problems with the ending, but were you okay with it? Let me know in the comments below. I’d like to hear your thoughts.