REVIEW: Oleanna

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.

Red.Collective presents Oleanna at SAW GalleryThere 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.

Allan Mackey

About Allan Mackey

Allan Mackey is editor-in-chief of Production Ottawa, which, really, is too fancy a title. He also acts as show producer for Should You See It, making sure you get your answer in just about two minutes every time. He writes stuff and occasionally turns that stuff into movies. Keep being awesome!

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  1. [...] (If you’re in the mood less for comedy & love and more for intellectual theatre, check out Oleanna. Both plays are worthy of your patronage and won’t [...]

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