Monday, May 25, 2015


David Mamet's intense verbal battle of words is definitely a case of "He said, She said."  The seemingly innocent encounter of a college student seeking assistance from her professor is fraught with potential power struggles and escalates into problematic possibilities.  Who do you believe?  What really happens behind that closed office door?  How does it so quickly explode with emotions?

West Hartford's intimate Playhouse on Park is set to light a tinderbox as Mamet's involving drama "Oleanna"  strikes a match until Sunday, May 31.  Even though the two characters dance around each other, with startling moves of a personal nature, this is no musical performance.  Moira O'Sullivan's Carol has come to beg her professor for leniency when he determines her course grade.  Despite her best intentions, doing all the assigned readings in the book he authored, she doesn't understand the concepts he has promulgated.   Is there something she can do to improve her class standing?

For his part, David M. Farrington's John is so busy fielding the ping pong of problems about his pending new purchase of a house and contemplating the granting of his status of tenure, that he doesn't give Carol the attention she feels she deserves.  Phone calls from his wife, friend and realtor interrupt their dialogue as he impatiently deals with the fires he must extinguish.

As each scene progresses, one month and one week later in time, we witness the metamorphosis of Carol from timid, inarticulate student who continually proclaims, "I don't understand," to a smooth talking spokeswoman for an agenda she clearly subscribes to and believes.  With the backing of "her group," a mysterious feminist organization, Carol mounts an increasingly virulent campaign against the good professor, determined to destroy his credentials and standing in the college community.

Will she succeed?  Can the teacher put the student in her place?  What are the stakes in this war of words?  Director Dawn Loveland keeps the pace building, the exchanges snappy and sharp and the problems pointed.  Anger and fear alternate as the gloves come off and the pair reveal their true identities. This is part of the Playhouse's On the Edge series.  Mamet named it for an obscure 19th century Pennsylvania community where a safe haven, a utopia, is put in jeopardy.

For tickets ($20-22.50), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Avenue, West Hartford at  860-523-5900 ex.10 or online at  Performances are Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.

Whichever side you take. it's guaranteed your discussion post-performance will be animated, provocative and spirited, whether in defense or accusation.

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