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Hart House Flatlines with Oleanna

The Hart House production of David Mamet's Oleanna was at best, an admirable attempt at a rather difficult wordy play. Now, while I don't consider myself an expert in theatre, or how a production is mounted, I do know a thing or two about rhythm and flow of dialogue, both of which were lacking.

Oleanna is a psychological cat and mouse tale; Professor John attempts to inspire one of his less apt students, Carol into thinking for herself and not reiterate what the education system and/or systems tells her. What results is a surprisingly twisted interpretation of the facts which escalate beyond both John and Carol's control.

The play is about gender and class inequalities ... both of which lacked impact in this interpretation.

Right from the beginning, Prof. John played by Richard Stewart, threw me thanks to his phony delivery of the dialogue. Kearsten Lyon's Carol was far better as I felt her delivery actually came from within. And perhaps that was why the syncing was off, because instead of actual interaction, one was more concerned with hitting cues, while the other delivered her lines as best she could to a wall.

Then there were the two 15 minute intermission between Acts, while stage hands rearranged furniture and cast members changed wardrobe. Incredibly unnecessary as it completely disrupted the flow and intended shock of the piece.

Also, blocking (where actors move around the stage) was almost non-existent till Act 3 when it finally started to pick up.

Though my biggest concern was with casting. While blind casting is rather popular in the theatre community, and the audience is expected to suspend their realities for the brief hour and a half ... having a white student, tell a black professor of the social injustices of society seems rather ... I don't know ... what's the word ... insensitive and demeaning.

My friend who I accompanied left with a heavy heart after sitting through this rendition of one of her favorite plays. I asked her, "When was the last time you saw a really good play?" She thought for a moment and then replied, "Banana Boys (@ Factory Theatre). It was good but flawed."


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