5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
One of Mamet's all-time greatest,
This review is from: Oleanna: A Play (Paperback)
I do not think there has been a play in the past twenty years that has inspired more arguments than David Mamet's "Oleanna". Mamet has never been angrier, sharper, or more inspired. More than that, however, Mamet has added a new aspect to this work: ambiguity.
The play revolves around two characters. The first, John, is a college professor. He sits behind the desk in his office, hiding behind a large vocabulary and a cocky disposition. Enter Carol, an attractive student who is having trouble understanding John's concepts in his class. John only half-listens to her problems. He spends most of the time listening to himself talk and distracting himself with complications from buying a new house.
Act One is initially hard to follow, and seems to go nowhere. However, when Act Two rolls along, the purpose is sealed. It turns out that certain words and one key gesture were misinterpreted, and John's career is on the line. As the play progresses, it turns out that Carol has more than a few tricks up her sleeve.
The play is insanely intriguing because of the motivations behind the two characters. We know people like this in our life, and to see both of them on their last leg, relying on whatever resources they have to get on top, is fascinating.
The most incredible aspect of this play, however, is the aforementioned abiguity. Although certain productions may lean toward one character or the other, the script itself presents two very flawed characters, making the hero/villain line rather blurry. Men tend to side toward John, while women find Carol the victim, but the play takes no sides.
Years from now, when Mamet has passed, and his work remains, I believe this will sit on the shelf with his best works. It is a quick, inexpensive read, and one of the best American plays in years.