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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, December 7, 2000

Eye of the Islands Photography
Eric Nemoto and Dorothy Stamp star in
David Mamet's "Oleanna."

‘Oleanna’ examines
two sides of harassment

Bullet Oleanna: At Yellow Brick Studio, 7:30 p.m. today to Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $10. Call 591-7999.

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin

THE Red Guards of Mao's "Cultural Revolution" could not have destroyed a university professor with greater thoroughness than Carol shows in destroying John in The Actors Group production of David Mamet's "Oleanna."

TAG director John Perry and the cast -- Eric Nemoto and Dorothy Stamp -- add another dimension to the show by hosting an open discussion on sexual harassment following each performance.

Carol drops in unannounced to talk with a professor whose class she must pass but is apparently flunking. The professor, John, is on track to receive tenure and in anticipation of getting it, is about the close a deal on a bigger and more expensive home. He's about to leave for a meeting with his wife and their realtor but ends up talking with Carol instead.

John and Carole have a long, rambling conversation about their lives, her feelings of being out of place in his class and John eventually confesses that he long suffered from feelings of inferiority. Somewhere in all this yakking, he makes a seemingly random comment about views of sex between different classes of people.

Come Act II, John's career is in shambles. Carol has filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. Despite their adversarial relationship they are again alone in his office, talking about the situation.

Most reasonable people would agree that John is insane to be alone with Carol under the circumstances. Most reasonable people would probably also agree on the face of it that nothing he did or said in Act I constitutes sexual harassment. That perception turns out to be the element in the story that makes this production such great, thought-provoking theater.

Mamet never provides an easy theatrical experience, more often creating unpleasant situations. Stamp and Nemoto do excellent work in negotiating Mamet's typically thick and rambling dialogue in this demanding story.

Is John an extremely subtle and cunning predator? Did Carol have an entrapment scenario in mind when she visited him? Is she now being exploited by some campus group with a larger agenda? Perry and his cast do an excellent job in leaving the ambiguity intact.

The post-show talks offer an excellent way of exploring the more arcane facets of harassment. TAG deserves a sold-out run.

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