Oleanna – Theater Review
Oleanna is a two-character play by David Mamet, about the power struggle between a university professor and one of his female students, who accuses him of sexual exploitation and, by doing so, spoils his chances of being accorded tenure.
OLEANNA is the story of a college professor and a student to comes to his office, because she doesn’t really understand what’s going on. It was produced downtown before off Broadway, with William H. Macy and Rebecca Pigeon, who is David Mammot’s wife. This is Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles, who both have a great deal more star power. To a certain extent, it doesn’t work as well and I’ll tell you why not. Bill Pullman is an attractive, charismatic man, and you have a sense of his interior swagger. William H. Macy was more of an every man sort of Alfred E. Newman, and because you felt that he really never had women falling all over him, he’d never been very attractive, he probably never pledged a fraternity, he had a different ethos to him. I think to a certain extent, the issues were more surprising and more shocking when his student turns on him. On the other hand, Julia Stiles is a beautiful young woman, younger than Rebecca Pigeon, probably a better actress, and prettier, but for some reason I think her part works better. This play was divided into three segments, they’re not really acts, as I recall, the original production has only two, but my memory may be a little bit inexact here. They have some curtains that go up and down, I suppose, so the characters can change clothes. But the first segment doesn’t work as well, just because of Bill Pullman’s attractiveness to be quite honest. On the other hand, the next two worked surprisingly well, and the technicality of the third part works very well. I would give this — this is a play that if you take a male with you, he will be furious by the end of it. This is a very thought provoking, provocative drama. Women tend to feel heartfelt about it, men seem to be angry, which is not surprising, understanding that David Mammot wrote it in response to the Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill hearings. Three stars.