David Mamet’s controversial play “Oleanna” was an Off Broadway sensation in 1992 and went on to a long, successful run in London.When it debuted in the wake of the 1991 Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings on Capitol Hill, “Oleanna” seemed to encapsulate the stormy national debate over sexual harassment. In its gripping dramatization of an ambiguous, increasingly tortured exchange between a male professor and his female student, it challenged the rampant political correctness of the time.
By showing that conflicts between superiors and subordinates are far more complex than conventional victim-centered feminism allowed, Mamet dared to suggest that both parties bear equal responsibility in any social transaction. “Oleanna” forces the audience to become a jury, a voyeuristic Greek chorus who must scrutinize the behavior of the two clashing characters and weigh their testimony. Different viewers will come to different conclusions. There is only perception of right and wrong.