BSU Actors Explore Sexual Harassment, Political Correctness In David Mamet’s Oleanna
By Jocelyn Jones
The Fine and Performing Arts department presented the play Oleanna in the Black Box Theater March 16, one of the first productions in the new Fine and Performing Arts Center.
Crystal Roberts, a junior and theater arts major with a concentration in acting and directing, played the lead character Carol, a disgruntled and subservient student, who despite her attitude is willing to learn. Carlton Curtis, a senior English major, took on the role of John, a sexist and manipulative professor.
The play opened with a Carol, wearing ripped jeans, T-shirt and a jacket, who goes to see her well-dressed in his office. She does not understand what John is trying to say within his lectures. John uses ongoing interruptions, unfinished statements and overlapping dialogue in order to show power over Carol.
John believes that education is hazing, boring and sees it as a joke, whereas Carol is very hard working. She wonders why John mocks and exploits the system that pays him. In order to relate to Carol, John tells her a story of how he was once stupid and incompetent and how he felt that he must fail in order to strive again.
“Why are you telling me this story?” Carol asks. John replies, “Because I like you.”
John bribes Carol and says if she frequents his office he will give her an “A” for her grade. Carol was frustrated and feared John, with a simple touch on her shoulders she perceived intentions that may or may not have been John’s and threatens to tell the tenure committee. John is dealing with the stress of buying his new house with his wife and now he has to deal with sexual harassment charges and risk losing his job.
As the acts proceeds the audience begins to notice the change in both characters: John becomes more subservient while Carol begins to assume more power in the relationship. She changes from ripped jeans and T-shirt to power suits while John begins to dress down. John is a vile and exploitative person who uses words Carol cannot understand to make her feel powerless.
Carol is a note-taker and has written all of the dirty jokes and flirtatious acts and tells John so he can listen and now she controls the situation. John thinks she has power over him and he hates Carol for it.
All Carol wants is to be understood; she is not seeking revenge. John shows himself as harmless to the charges of sexual explosiveness and tries to explain to her that it was not meant to be that way. Carol feels that through his negligent act he should not to be considered for tenure.
John gets angrier because he is powerless and the fate of his relationship and career is in her hands. Carol tells John that she is going to tell the tenure committee that he pushed his body onto hers and attempted to rape her. As soon as those words came out of Carol’s mouth, John grabbed Carol, threw her down and hit her with a belt. While on the ground screaming, John throws everything off his desk and then there is complete silence as the scene ends.