Oleanna – A Misunderstood Play

This evening I saw the David Mamet play Oleanna in Lewisburg, as performed by the RiverStage Community Theatre. I did not realize it, but I have seen this play before. I keep a list of all the plays I’ve seen and this play is number seven. I probably saw it years ago at the Community Theater League. As usual, I did not drive all the way to Lewisburg just to see this play. I took the opportunity to do a little shopping and dining just to make the long drive worthwhile. I stopped in at Barnes & Noble which is the Bucknell University Bookstore and bought a paperback book World Without Mind by Franklin Foer. This is another nonfiction book about the threat of Big Tech. I have been reading many books like this of late. I had something to eat at the bookstore cafe, a yogurt and a cup of coffee.

RiverStage Community Theatre seemed to think Oleanna was a timely play because it supports the #MeToo movement but I think they have misunderstood this play. I interpreted the play as a clever critique of social justice warriors. The playwright’s hostile intention is made clear by the ambiguity of the situation and the outrageous nature of the student’s behavior. If David Mamet had really wanted to argue in favor of social justice he would not have made the student’s actions so questionable. It amazes me that people can misread an author’s intentions so badly, but I have seen it before. What you have to understand is that a writer can play God. He will construct the story to support his viewpoint. Even a seemingly impartial story will be constructed according to the author’s secret intentions. This is an old play which I have not seen or read in many years, so I was surprised by much it predicts the current social justice warrior controversy. But I guess that nonsense has been going on for a very long time in academia.

One of my full length plays, Charcoal Sketches, is somewhat similar to Oleanna but my intention was very different. In my play a blameless college professor is accused of giving inappropriate attention to a female student, making her the teacher’s pet, but I was interested in the subconscious motivation in self-sabotage. My protagonist shoots himself in the foot to get himself out of a stagnant situation without being consciously aware of making such a decisive decision. Unconscious determination is a subject that interests me a great deal. But I suppose my play would also be misinterpreted as supporting a feminist narrative.

After the play was over I stopped in at Wendy’s for a Big Fish sandwich and a small vanilla shake. I don’t like most fast food, but fish sandwiches tend to be really good.

The next play I will see is The Plough & the Stars by Se├ín O’Casey at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City. This will be the third play I’ve seen at this theater. It has become my favorite theater in New York City because all the other theaters have abandoned artistic excellence in favor of demonstrating how politically correct they are in their casting and material. I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with that, but it has clearly replaced every other consideration so you get trivial plays attacking the basis of national holidays and other crap. When the theater gives up on art, artists must give up on the theater, or find some smaller theater that keeps up the tradition.

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