Oleanna gives audiences something to talk about
The crowd shuffled in one by one as The Center for the Arts Black Box Theater began to fill up. Students, parents, faculty and other members of the UB community were all anxiously awaiting the start of the show.
The excitement and anticipation of an opening night performance was palpable, as the actors ran around backstage making last minute preparations.
As the doors began to close and the last few members of the audience trickled in to take their seats, the lights went down and the curtain went up as UB's theater and dance department kicked off its four-day run of Oleanna,an unflinching commentary on gender issues in contemporary society written by David Mamet.
"[Oleanna is] a play about something," said Kazimierz Braun, director of the show. "It is intellectually provocative, [and it] debates important issues of political correctness and sexual harassment."
Oleanna is the story of John, a university professor, and Carol, one of John's students. As the action of the play unfolds, the audience witnesses a moment of transgression on John's part, a complaint filed by Carol regarding John's apparent sin and John's discharge from his position.
The climax of the play comes in the second act, in which Carol walks out into the audience and delivers a powerful monologue regarding social and moral responsibility. This monologue epitomizes the central theme presented throughout the duration of the performance.
The play is clearly meant to provoke thought and discussion due to the fact that the circumstances of John's transgression are unclear, and it is debatable whether or not John is wrongly accused of sexual harassment. In the end, it is up to the viewer to decide the boundaries of certain gender relations.
"A play like this really makes you think," said Laura Lonski, a sophomore legal studies major. "You walk out of it thinking, ‘Where is the line?'"
The circumstances of this play hit especially close to home because the issues that are addressed are situations that people in the world must deal with every day.
One of the most interesting facets of the production was the usage of different actors for every scene. Scene one features Matthew Nerber and Katie Osborn playing John and Carol, respectively, whereas scene two features Joe Siejack and Kelsey Mogensen. Scene three features John Jacoby and Sarah Blewett.
While this use of different actors and actresses for every scene was most likely to increase the number of roles available, it was a great decision, as it helped to greatly facilitate the continually shifting circumstances of the play.
In terms of overall production quality, the stage crew did an incredible job worthy of the utmost praise. The lighting effects for the play were subtle and intimate, using bright, white lights to accent the action and cool blues to mirror the melancholy and dejection of John.
The scenery for the play was simple yet tasteful, allowing the audience members to engage in the events unfolding before them.
Overall, UB theater and dance department's production of Oleanna is a performance that would make David Mamet proud. From lighting to scenery to individual performances, every aspect was carried out in an impressive fashion. The social and moral issues at stake in the play are ones that every member of the UB community should address.
Oleannais playing at The Center for the Arts Black Box Theater on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundayat 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students and senior citizens and $18 for general admission.