Oleanna: A Play
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Oleanna: A Play

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  3,539 ratings  ·  141 reviews
In David Mamet’s latest play, a male college instructor and his female student sit down to discuss her grades and in a terrifyingly short time become the participants in a modern reprise of the Inquisition. Innocuous remarks suddenly turn damning. Socratic dialogue gives way to heated assault. And the relationship between a somewhat fatuous teacher and his seemingly haples...more
ebook, 96 pages
Published March 28th 2012 by Vintage (first published 1993)
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Jessica
I will say about Oleanna that when I saw Mamet's production of the play, I thought it was one of the most offensive depictions of feminism, so-called political correctness and campus life I'd ever seen. Then I was asked to be the dramaturg on the Yale Rep's production of the play, and discovered it's a much richer, balanced view of the kind of misunderstanding and conflict that could take place in any institution than Mamet himself may have even intended.

As Mamet so often does so well, these tw...more
Núria
No había leído nunca ‘Oleanna’, pero hace años había visto la adaptación cinematográfica que dirigió el mismo David Mamet. Supongo que puedo decir que, durante este tiempo que ha pasado, habré cambiado un poco porque las impresiones y la opinión que me ha dejado esta obra han variado ligeramente. La primera vez me irritó bastante. Me irritó básicamente porque el personaje femenino acusa de violación al personaje masculino, algo que es totalmente inventado. En aquel momento me irritó que una muje...more
Maria
This is the first Mamet play I have read (sacrilege, I know) and I was pleasantly surprised. My only prior experience was a production of Sexual Perversity in Chicago which I found to be dated (reasonable) and stilted (unacceptable). I also find it annoying that actors, in general find his writing to be so brilliant. Plus the scenes I have seen people do never sound natural: too many cryptic pauses and unfinished thoughts, not enough contractions, and Mamet's penchant for saying "do you see?" in...more
Chuck O'Connor
I loved this play and the film version of it when I was an actor but that was when I thought narrative was seated in the dynamic individualistic choice of character, and had no clue, in my mid 20s, how power structures worked.

This is a stupid play full of choice moments for actors to play but it lacks nuance and is completely misunderstood regarding the institution it investigates.

Narrative fiction of which I place plays should put the reader or viewer in a place of cognitive dissonance where...more
Darren Cormier
I'm not a theater-goer. Going to a play is not necessarily on the top of my list for a night out. Yet I sometimes enjoy reading plays. I realize this is like reading sheet-music and lyrics without hearing the music performed: the performance and the emotions of the performer gives meanings to the notes, to the words: the reader/listener is not experiencing the piece as it's meant to be experienced. But, then again, perhaps reading a play without knowledge of the performance, without the stigma o...more
Josh Drimmer
Probably best,

a) Read. (It's a tough play to stage, and avoid the Mamet-directed movie at all costs.)
b) Read without any knowledge of Mamet's opinions on this play. I think he wrote something more interesting than he knows.
Anne-Marie
Mamet Speak without the profanity... this play is a dysfunctional, miscommunicated conversation between a college professor and his student. Multiple interpretations - brings up great questions about ways in which we communicate.
Sarah
Terrificly tense! Ever since I read this I have wanted to see an actual production. As riveted as I was to the text I can only imagine how suspenseful it would be in person.
Paul
Both are right, both are wrong. And what happens when we hold tightly to our own position, and the heat turns up. Mamet is a master of speech and thought.
Timothy Faust
I don't think Mamet can ever hit us with anything as powerful as Oleanna. The play makes me physically uncomfortable. Stellar.
§--
Amazing! Mamet is the best living American playwright and this is why. Only a Mamet could pull off something this difficult, this ambiguous, this tense. Only a great writer could write a script with almost no complete sentences and have it still make sense and be powerful.

JOHN: No one thinks you’re stupid.
CAROL: No? What am I…?
JOHN: I…
CAROL: …what am I, then?
JOHN: I think you’re angry. Many people are. I have a telephone call that I have to make. And an appointment, which is rather pressing; th...more
William Johnson
This review is from my website Secure Immaturity and examines the movie as well:

David Mamet plays are not simply plays but experiences. And while the environment surrounding the characters change, the plot is usually a variation on a theme: men are proud but arrogant and women are always their downfall. Mamet plays are difficult enough to stomach on stage (misogynistic subject matter and very, very specific intonation of dialogue) that film versions of his work prove even more laborious.

Oleanna,...more
Rociel
Oleanna by David Mamet tells of the dismal relationship between a college professor and his student. The play questions the theory of higher education; it's purpose and function in today’s society. It also captures the many aspects of what could be preserved to be politically incorrect, in terms of sexuality and power. “Overcame prejudices. Economic, sexual, you cannot begin to imagine. And endure humiliation I pray that you and those you love never will encounter… To pursue that same dream of...more
Aaron
To date, this is the best Mamet play I've read (having previously read Speed-the-Plow and Glengarry Glenross). It's true to his fast paced and somewhat choppy style of dialogue, and the fact that Oleanna is a shorter play to begin with makes it seem like an even faster moving piece. Throughout the play, Carol is continually flustered by John's inattentiveness to a point where it almost seems needlessly repetitive. On the contrary, it is entirely the point to be repetitive and rather pointless si...more
Darren
I'm not a theater-goer. Going to a play is not necessarily on the top of my list for a night out. Yet I sometimes enjoy reading plays. I realize this is like reading sheet-music and lyrics without hearing the music performed: the performance and the emotions of the performer gives meanings to the notes, to the words: the reader/listener is not experiencing the piece as it's meant to be experienced. But, then again, perhaps reading a play without knowledge of the performance, without the stigma o...more
Jamilla Rice
I think this is another one of those things that will come to me in about 3-5 weeks. I'll be in the bathroom performing one of several types of ablutions and I will say yes, that dialogue was brilliant. Yes, it was so exigent, it's PC argument at a time before Family Guy, South Park, and Tosh.0, a time when there were things we could not say, at time when our language was held hostage. I just didn't like it. I appreciate the message, but it was to disjointed in its discourse, until the very end....more
Sheila
I've been reading the news today and happened across the latest Sarah Palin story going around, with her use of the term "blood libel" to describe what's been said about her and other conservatives following the Giffords asassination attempt.

I'd never heard the term "blood libel" used before. My initial guess was that the term referred to basically the idea of false accusation of having "blood on your hands" - something horrible being your fault that really isn't. In theory, I suppose that defi...more
Christian Engler
It is an unfortunate truth: political correctness-sometimes but not always-overrides education. For a while, it has been extremely detrimental-inside as well as outside of the academic community-a fact Mamet has obviously noticed. For some people, whether they be students, educators or the general citizenary, it has become a tool to elevate their social and political standing, while for others, it has become a loaded weapon in order to inflict character assassination and injure deep-seated Const...more
Sara Elice
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachel Zeiler
I read this book for a theater class in college, and the first time I read it, I hated it. The characters are unlikable, the dialogue while it is conversational is not realistic and the actions that they take were outrageous and out of the norm.

Then I read it again. And Again. I began to really enjoy this book, because the three act play is all about power. I don't want to give too much away. In the first act The teacher pontificates and rambles, in the middle they struggle and fight for dominan...more
Elsie
Where do I begin to explain this play. It is a difference watching it vs reading it. Both characters are wrong in their own way while both characters are misunderstood to each other. It brings up the extreme feminist however her "group" was never declared nor named. However this poor professor loses everything because of this student and then he just loses it at the end. It is something to see to understand.
Josh
Granted, I'm not a big Mamet fan, but this play reminded both why I'm not, and why people other people like him.

When they call him the master of dialogue, what they really mean is the master of writing out stuttering, which is effin' easy, it just reads like shit. I take the Robert McKee position that dialogue isn't speech, it's dialogue. It's supposed to be bigger, better, more grandiouse. Mamet dissagrees.

Also, he has this hyperfocus on the big bad man whose world is being destroyed by politic...more
Allison
I was looking for a play to read and I recognized "David Mamet" as a playwright I had heard of, so I picked this up at a used bookstore. The description sounded compelling! However, the book itself was decidedly less so. It's essentially about a reversed power play. But there's so much filler text, the equivalent of "ums" and "uhs" that I could barely discern the story. The only reason I finished it was because I was so certain that something by such a renowned playwright couldn't possibly be th...more
Scotty
First time I saw it, I hated it with a passion. But y'know, when you react so strongly against something, you're going to think about it. A lot. And I did. Then, as with so many things in life, this extreme reaction caused me to reassess my position, and whaddaya know, I found myself sitting at the computer, reading the play itself, and cross-referencing stuff I was finding in reviews. Then I went ahead and got the film. Then I went through a mild phase of Mamet obsession.

I really wish our publi...more
Ming Jiu Li
Some great lines, that had me questioning my own male privilege and assumptions about (patriarchal) institutions. A lot of shifts in perspectives and sympathies, which kept reading interesting. Overall though, cannot shake the feeling that the subject matter and setting in 'higher education' seem all rather petty.
GirlOfTheCrowd
This play improves an inordinate amount upon analysis. It is not a great play to sit and read; it is a stifling, frustrating and difficult read (John's lengthy speeches; the fragmented dialogue). But when we sit and analyse what Mamet is doing and how, this slice of provocative theatre comes alive. An astute deconstruction of language, gender, political correctness and power. It's no wonder New York and London audiences had notoriously violent reactions to this play. This is a play where miscomm...more
Emily
Aug 24, 2011 Emily rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily by: Fran Bryden
Wow. This play was mind blowingly good. Provocative and compelling. I whipped through it in under an hour.

Initially, (Act I), I struggled to comprehend Carol's character, and wondered if she had some sort of mental disability. By Act II, I was struggling more to understand her motivations and her anger and identifying more with John's questioning of academia and ritual. When John transformed in the final moments of the play into the monstrous man she had made him out to be, I was shocked, appall...more
Emma
Ummm, I hope to never have a teacher like John...or rather a meeting like the one described in this play.


This is the first of three Mamet shows I read. I didn't mind the characters but the way they spoke was absolutely infuriating. If your characters don't need to constantly stutter and repeat themselves, don't make them do that. This was relatively tame on the Mamet language scale and it still felt a bit forced. Also the play spiraled out of control so quickly. (The end scene broght with it a W...more
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David Alan Mamet is an American author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and film director. His works are known for their clever, terse, sometimes vulgar dialogue and arcane stylized phrasing, as well as for his exploration of masculinity.

As a playwright, he received Tony nominations for Glengarry Glen Ross (1984) and Speed-the-Plow (1988). As a screenwriter, he received Oscar nominations for Th...more
More about David Mamet...
Glengarry Glen Ross American Buffalo Sexual Perversity in Chicago & The Duck Variations True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor On Directing Film

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