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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

OLEANNA (article first published : 2008-02-20)

KickstArt is to present David Mamet's Oleanna - a fascinating theatrical study fuelled with sexual tension that examines the notion of sexual harassment in the workplace, which comes to the Seabrooke’s Theatre from March 7.

Oleanna is a two-character play by David Mamet about the power struggle between a university professor and one of his female students who accuses him of sexual harassment,” says director Steven Stead. “Dramatic, taut and very provocative, Oleanna will have you laughing nervously and then arguing fiercely once the curtain comes down.“

Brought to Durban by a multi-award winning team that was responsible for the highly successful staging of Mamet's Boston Marriage, Oleanna is directed by Steven Stead, designed by Greg King. The play pairs Tim Wells as John, the university professor on the ascendant, with Janna Ramos Violante as Carol a failing student.

In the programme notes of American Theatre company, Bench Theatre’s production it articulately sums up the plot: “In the no-man's land between misunderstanding and sexual harassment, we watch with impotent dread as the relationship between professor and student entirely breaks down, as their mutual respect evaporates and an unbridgeable divide opens which can only destroy one or both of them. This is the gender war, and more than that. It's the generation gap, and more than that. It's the class struggle, and more than that. During its New York run, audiences actually came to blows as they left the theatre, so powerful is David Mamet's writing. Time since has changed nothing.”

Oleanna had its London premiere at the Royal Court Theatre in 1993 directed by Harold Pinter. In his personal correspondence to Mamet, Pinter acknowledges: “There can be no tougher or unflinching play than Oleanna.” The play has enjoyed numerous outings on the stage and screen – in recent years there has been a film version with William H Macy, and a stage version at the Garrick Theatre in London in 2004 featuring Aaron Eckhart and Julia Stiles.

“Noted for his strong male characters, Mamet's plays often deal with the decline of morality in a world which has become an emotional and spiritual wasteland. In 1984, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Glengarry Glen Ross which recreated the atmosphere of a gritty Chicago real estate office in which Levine, an aging salesman, is about to be sacked. He followed up in 1988 with Speed the Plow which exposes the dirty underside of another industry - show business. Perhaps his most controversial play, however, came in 1992 with Oleanna, a two-character drama involving charges of sexual harassment between a male professor and one of his female students,” continues Bench Theatre in their programme notes

The title comes from a failed utopia in Wisconsin on the 19th Century, where men and women failed to live in harmony. This has been immortalised in a folk song of the same title. This thrilling and challenging piece of theatre launches KickstArt's exciting artistic programme for 2008.

Oleanna runs at Seabrooke's Theatre (DHS) from March 11 to 30 with performances from Tuesday to Saturday at 19h30 (Sundays at 15h00). Tickets R90 for unreserved seats booked through Computicket.

Discounted tickets R75 for previews on March 8 at 19h30 and March 9 at 15h00 as well as for students and pensioners in possession of valid ID on day of performance from box office one hour before performances (cash sales only). No under 14's.




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