A table, two chairs, a small stage, two actors locked in a power struggle, accusations, indictments, destroyed futures. StageLight&Magic Inc.’s newest production of David Mamet’s Oleanna, promises to be an evening of riveting theatre. Oleanna is a play about the power struggle between a university professor and one of his female students, who accuses him of sexual harassment and, by doing so spoils his chances of being accorded tenure. This play has often been characterized as an attack on political correctness and affirmative action, yet it should also be viewed as a close scrutiny of power relations, especially in the elusive world of academia.
There are two characters in the cast: a professor named John and his student, Carol. She is failing his class. She absolutely cannot accept a failing grade, and so she visits him in his office, where he is distracted by telephone calls about a house he and his wife hope to buy. He never really seems to hear or understand her problem.
In the second act, the student returns, with a new wardrobe and a more confident attitude. She is now a member of an unidentified "group." She has brought charges of sexual harassment against the professor, based on statements and physical behavior she found offensive. He stands to lose his tenure and his beloved house. He absolutely cannot accept these losses.
An objective observer might conclude that the professor's behavior is incorrect in the first act, and the student's in the second; that the play is Mamet's attempt to portray the situation from both points of view. It is made apparent in the first act that Carol is failing the course because she is either incapable or unprepared. Certainly the professor should not raise her grade simply because she is unhappy about it. Nor does he make an improper sexual advance - although his awkward movement at one point is later misinterpreted by Carol, and is the basis of the complaint which may destroy his career.
The play was directed by Ifaz Bin Jameel who made his directorial debut in StageLight&Magic Inc’s production of Dario Fo’s “Elizabeth – Almost by chance a Woman” staged earlier this year. Oleanna features Swasha Perera as the student and Feroze Kamardeen as the professor. The play is produced by Leyon Rajaratne. Oleanna will go on the boards of the Punchi Theatre from the 23rd to the 25th of September 2005. Entrance to the performances will be by invitation only. The production of Oleanna is sponsored by Alankara – The World of Diamonds. Sunday Times and YES FM are the official media partners.