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Oleanna (Methuen Student Editions) Paperback – 26 Aug 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Methuen Drama; New edition edition (26 Aug. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0413773760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0413773760
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 442,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

John and Carol go to it with hand-to hand combat that amounts to a primal struggle for power. As usual with Mamet, the vehicle for that combat is crackling, highly distilled dialogue unencumbered by literary frills or phony theatrical ones. Frank Rich, International Herald Tribune An ear for reproducing everyday language has long been David Mamet's hallmark and he has now employed it to skewer the dogmatic, puritannical streak which has become commonplace on and off the campus. With Oleanna he continues an exploration of male-female conflicts begun with Sexual Perversity in Chicago in 1974. Oleanna cogently demonstrates that when free thought and dialogue are imperilled, nobody wins. Michael Wise, Independent

About the Author

David Mamet is one of the most distinctive voices on the contemporary American stage. He was born and had his first and many subsequent plays premiere in Chicago. His screenplays include: The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Verdict, The Untouchables, We're No Angels and Glengarry Glen Ross; he was writer and director for House of Games, Things Change and Homicide.


Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 16 Feb. 2001
Format: Paperback
Mamet's master-craftsmanship is never more in evidence than in this absorbing play. The seemingly staid, mundane setting of an all-American college campus provides a perfect contrast for the confrontation that is about to explode between the play's only two characters, a college lecturer and a student. Mamet pulls no punches, dealing head-on with issues like sexual politics, gender warfare and even the socio-economic divide, but the central theme is power, and the playwright meticulously weaves a frighteningly realistic scenario wherein power changes hands in almost-imperceptible ways, and the 'balance of power' becomes a real knife-edge! Mamet, a master of the language, uses it here to great effect, with machine-gun-like staccatto and short, punchy interchanges echoing the violence of the confrontation. His choice of the education system as a backdrop for the action is no accident, since the theme of power, besides being framed in terms of gender, is also explored in the educational context, via an examination of education as empowerment, the educator as a wielder of power (at least initially) and the student as vulnerable and powerless. The reader's emotions and sympathies are fully engaged at all times, and he or she is likely to be left feeling harrowed and torn - but definitely educated.
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This play is an electrifying two-hander, set in an American university. Carol is a failing student who copies down all the notes in lectures but doesn't understand what they mean. John is the lecturer who makes his own rules and patronises his students. When he tries to fob Carol off with an A so she'll stop annoying him, she misinterprets his intentions. A seemingly innocent pat on the shoulder leads to a complaint of sexual harassment. What follows is a power struggle between the sexes, classes and generations. Carol and John argue over the use of language and the purpose of education.

One could be simplistic and say that this is Mamet just having a bash at feminists, but the play is about more than that. It raises some interesting questions about higher education. Should everybody go to college/university, even if they're clearly not suited to academic study? The title of the play refers to an idealised American colony which seemed perfect but dense forestation meant that it was impossible for the community to live there. Both John and Carol see university as being a perfect aspiration: Carol sees university as being the key to life and her chance of escape from the life she has at home.
John sees it as an opportunity to preach and covets the bourgeouis lifestyle of a lecturer with tenure.Both John and Carol are unsuited for university life and yet both will cling on to it.

In the premiere of the play, audiences cheered at the violent finale and shouted at Carol. However, though Carol may be the more obvious villain, there's a part of me that wonders whether John didn't deserve his fall from grace. For a start, the stage direction doesn't say whether the pat is intended as sexual or not; only that it's a pat on the shoulder.
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It is easy to fall into the belief that Mamet's talent is all in the dialogue, because, yes he is a sharp talker, a wisecracking,sharp shooter - but beyond this, he trades in the currency of ideas. His language may well be of the every day, and anyone who has seen "Glengarry Glen Ross" will be familiar with the style, which is, in short, with no pause for thought, Harold Pinter with balls. But it is a disservice to say he is a writer who is all words and no action.
In "Oleanna" the central theme is familiar - that with great power, comes great responsibility. A two hander, this play is tight. There is nothing superfluous. John, a college professor on the brink of career success, is confronted by student Carol who, as inarticulate as she is, finds a way of forcing him to face the facts that his generation has let down those whom he has - at least an implicit- responsibility to. Between their two viewpoints the drama, and conflict, derives.
This play is awe inspiring in that Mamet is able to pull off, with such economical means, a story which will leave you questioning generational interecation, the legitimacy of higher education, the nature of where one's responsibilities lie, and a whole host of questions around semantics.
Whether one watches this as a performed stage play, or reads it, there is a small intake of breath each time Mamet manages to turn the screw- and while you may well pride yourself on knowing where the course of such drama leads, this will leave you breathless. Even after the climax of the action, you will be questioning both protganists points of view, and find both of them both innocent, and guilty...
A deeply provocative piece which will have you questioning your own assumptions and values again and again - surely there are few dramatists alive today that force one to confront the uncomfortable trtuhs which our PC vocabulary runs shy of?
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This the daughter required for her college work, came quite quick well packed and was exactly what it said.
She is very happy as it was for her lol, saved me walking around the shops looking for it.
Thanks
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