By Michele Markarian
‘Oleanna’ – Written by David Mamet. Directed by Elaine Vaan Hogue. Presented by New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA through November 5
I feel like I need to start this review off by saying that I am – absolutely – a feminist. Keep reading, and you’ll see why.
“Oleanna” takes place in the office of John (Johnny Lee Davenport), a professor at a college whose impending tenure has just been announced. The subsequent raise in pay is allowing him to purchase a new home. A series of phone calls negotiating the details of this real estate transaction is interrupted by the arrival of Carol (Obehi Janice), a student who claims to be having difficulty with his class and in particular, his textbook. The textbook, one that he has authored himself, refers to higher education as “systematic hazing”. As someone who has worked hard to get herself to college, Carol is deeply offended by this. As she despairs at being too “stupid” to understand what is going on in his classroom, John offers to give her an A, if she agrees to meet with him for tutoring sessions. This decision will ultimately be John’s downfall.