On Thursday, a two-character play opens. I am one of those two. I am half of the play. The worse half. It is Oleanna, a comedy of language and a tragedy of power, written by Pulitzer prize-winning David Mamet. College student Carol visits professor John in his office to discuss her failing grade. By the conclusion of this first meeting, it would seem an understanding has been reached. But when next we see them, Carol has joined a “group” and every word, every nuance of their interaction has been twisted into something else. Or has it?

I’m playing the aforementioned college student, Carol. If that isn’t sufficiently intriguing, I will also be juggling chain saws. That’s not true. Why wouldn’t it be sufficiently intriguing that I’m playing Carol? And since we’re taking questions, what’s with the title of the play? Well, it’s ironically derived from a folk song which contains the lyrics,

In Oleanna land is free
The wheat and corn just plant themselves
Then grow a good four feet a day
While on your bed you rest yourself

In Oleanna the land is free, but in Oleanna, the land is not your land, or my land, it’s badland. The lay of the land is sharp, barren, rugged, divided by drop-offs, shrouded in fog, obscured by trees. Still, it’s like Sondheim says, sometimes you have to go into the woods. The woods are just trees and the trees are just wood. But it’s dim and it’s unnerving and it reminds you of the Blair Witch Project and there could be weeping and gnashing of teeth and running noses.

Yet you have to go, to get something that makes it worth the journeying. And hope it’s worth it for everyone else. A lesson learned. A prejudice confronted. An injustice witnessed. So,

Into the woods
Into the woods
Into the woods
Then out of the woods
And home before dark


Oleanna by David Mamet. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM from June 19th – July 12th at the Alchemist Theatre in Bay View. Directed by Erin Eggers. Starring David Sapiro and Ben Parman. Lighting and Sound Design by Aaron Kopec. Stage Management by Sydonia Lucchesi.


3 thoughts on “Oleanna

  1. Ben,
    You know this may be the impetus I need to finally read that David Mamet book, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture! Just kidding, although I am curious about that one. Someday.

    Mamet has never been my favorite playwright, but I have come to appreciate his strengths over time. He might be many things, but being politically correct or false in the name of politeness he is not, and in a society oversaturated with political correctness, there are worse things. Plus he is the father of Zosia Mamet, and I find her humor and her outlook to be compelling.

    I would come see your production if I were in town. Break a leg!

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