Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Charles Jarrett

Oleanna, now playing at Playhouse West in Walnut Creek, starts off with a student meeting with her professor (Robert Hamm) at his university office. Carol (Lisa Anne Morrison) is concerned about her grade. She takes prolific notes and has read the professorís book, yet sheís still failing the course. Thereís something she canít quite seem to grasp. The professor consoles Carol and vows to help her improve her grade. It seems like a very mundane story to this point.

But in the next scene, the professorís life is turned upside down. Carol has accused him of sexual harassment. Itís obvious that she read a lot more into the professorís behavior in the first scene than he did. Suddenly the audience finds themselves on the edge of their seats, caught up in a power struggle they never expected.

Such is the energy of this controversial drama by David Mamet. Soon you begin to reevaluate everything that happened in that first scene like a juror on a criminal trial. Was there some nuances in the way the professor said or did things that warranted Carolís accusations?

Alas, like many good court dramas, the audience is given both sides and allowed to make up their own minds. Whoever you side with, however, you canít help feeling profoundly disturbed by this play. You leave the theatre the way a juror leaves a lengthy trial Ė traumatized by all the gray areas that get in the way of a clear-cut guilty or innocent verdict.

For tickets or more information call (925) 943-7469 or visit www.playhousewest.org.

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