David Mamet's Oleanna is not an easy play. It's filled with big ideas and respects the audience enough to let us find our own meaning.
Oleanna is, at heart, about feeling powerless and the lengths one will go to in order to gain some control. It's also a post-feminist fable about the impenetrable boundary of language and people’s ability to listen without ever really hearing. It's also about whatever preconceptions of gender politics you bring into the theater with you. See what I mean? Big ideas.
The brilliant thing about David DaCosta's direction—and the inaugural show of his theatrical company Thoroughly Modern Production—is that he lets Mamet's powerful script dictate the flow of the show, creating a flawlessly paced-90 minutes that doesn't waste time trying to manipulate your emotions. It's honest, real theater that exists to challenge you.
On top of DaCosta's focused and understated direction, he has found a pair of actors who understand the rhythms of Mamet's dialogue. The playwright is a sculptor of words, as is apparent here as well as in works like Glengarry Glen Ross and American Buffalo.
Luckily, actors Richard Mueller and Bailey Olmstead display an ownership of the dialogue that grows stronger as the play progresses. Mueller makes some very brave choices in the first act with his delivery, but by act two it’s hard not to be impressed by his subtlety. Olmstead takes what is a very difficult character on the page and gives her deep layers. As the play rolls out, their battle of words becomes mesmerizing.
If this is the kind of theater we can expect from DaCosta and Thoroughly Modern Productions, then Bend is lucky to have him, because Oleanna is not an easy play to market or produce.
Comedies and musicals are what sell here in Bend. Obviously you don't put on a Mamet play to make a fortune. You do it because you love theater and you think people should see it. So, see it and reward some local artists for taking some real chances.
8pm Friday, June 22 and
Saturday, June 23
3pm Saturday, June 23
2nd Street Theater
220 NE Lafayette Ave.
Tickets available at 2ndstreettheater.com