Community theatre in Bend has another sparkling gem in its pocket with David Mamet’s Oleanna, now playing thru June 23.
Directed by East Coast native David DaCosta and produced by his Thoroughly Modern Productions, the controversial two-person play centers on the captivating duel between an aging university professor and his inept female student, each vying for position in a game of gender power, sexist miscommunication and the failings of higher educational institutions.
In DaCosta’s capable hands, Mamet’s fierce dialog crackles with potency, developing a cascading rhythm and pace, enveloping you inside its all-consuming words. Set design is striped down to a single faculty office, bookcase and menacing crystal chess set serving as a not-too-subtle reminder of the battle of wits and position playing out onstage.
Even on opening night, the duo of stars Richard Mueller (John) and Bailey Olmstead (Carol) displayed an uncanny familiarity and comfort grappling with Mamet’s avalanche of razor-sharp, rapid-fire lines. Empowerment and entitlement force themselves on the audience behind the ivy-draped walls of an unnamed university and whose side one takes depends heavily on the preconceived notions of sexual harassment carried into the cozy confines of the 2nd Street venue.
“I discovered Mamet in college and have always been a huge fan,” said DaCosta. I’ve had this play in my mind for ten or twelve years and as I’ve gotten wiser in time my understanding of it has changed. It was an absolute pleasure and joy to work with Richard and Bailey. They were quintessential professionals and the production was a challenging, collaborative effort.”
Oleanna first debuted in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1992 starring William H. Macy and Rebecca Pidgeon in the leads and went on to a successful Broadway run and 1994 Hollywood film adaptation.
Weekend performances remaining are June 22 at 8pm and June 23 at 3pm and 8pm. All tickets are $15. The 2nd Street Theater is located at 220 N.E. Lafayette Ave. For tickets or questions call 541-312-9626 or visit them online at 2ndstreettheter.com.