Wednesday, October 21, 2009


photo: Sara Krulwich

The spark that should reverberate throughout David Mamet's Oleanna is gone, if it was ever truly there to begin with. Sure, the audience still gasps on cue when Carol (Julia Stiles), a pretty, manipulative co-ed accuses her married professor (Bill Pullman) of raping her. But never for one second of Doug Hughes' highly stylized production do you ever feel the necessary sense of prescient danger from either side. Even the now-legendary final scene--which has the potential to be thrilling--is as sterile as the modern office set (by Neil Patel) on which it's played. It doesn't help that both actors give overly calculated, almost rote performances; Stiles especially seems far too comely and collected to succeed in her part. Throughout the performance I attended, my mind often wandered to a more recent (and more successful) psycho-sexual two-hander: David Harrower's Blackbird. I couldn't help but fantasize about what that show's electrifying costars, Alison Pill and Jeff Daniels, could have done with these roles.

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