Between words |

David Mametin “Oleanna”, director. Krzysztof Prus Teatr im. Lodzda Jaracz. Katarzyna Voytsiak-Vavrzinyak writes on the portal

photo: Krzysztof Bieliński / mat. theater

Oleanna, an American playwright and screenwriter, film and theater director, premiered a university-themed play in May 1992 at the Harvard Repertoire Theater in Cambridge, near Boston. It premiered in 1994 at the Royal Court Theater in London. Another playwright – Harold Pinter. That same year, David Mamet made a film based on himself Oleanny. In Poland, Mamet’s play, which began in 1994 with two simultaneous premieres at the Old Theater in Krakow and the Warsaw Ateneum, has been staged only eight times so far, despite growing discourse against violence in science, cinema and theater. It is clear from the circles that in the thirty years since its inception, on the contrary, it has not aged. In Lodz, this was especially relevant in the context of a group of lecturers accusing one of the students of the Film School of violence.

Title Oleanna Contrary to appearances, this is not the original name of the protagonist of the drama, but an indirect reference to the utopian commune (real name Oleon) created in the 19th century in the United States by Norwegian composer and virtuoso Ole Bull. According to the view of Western Pennsylvania, he decided to build an elegant commune there for poor immigrants from Norway. Unfortunately, the project failed, and that’s what the song is about Olean Norwegian journalist Ditmar Meidel mocked the idea of ​​avoiding creating a model Scandinavian society in America. However, Mamet’s play does not tell the story of this commune – the author is more metaphorical to Meidell’s songs. “Oleanna” is synonymous with the complete failure of an idealistic project.

In his art, Mamet reveals the brightness and shadows of university education, especially the instability, or rather deconstruction, of the traditional teaching model based on the teacher-student garden. His lecturer-student approach is an attempt to reflect the potential for the use of force, rather than the opportunity to acquire more knowledge – to show the fragility of social roles, the temptation to use violence, and to relate the category of truth.

In three scenes, Mamet described the story of the teacher and his student. The play begins with a scene in the university office. We see John, who has the strength of many, perfectly dressed. Elements of the dress, such as a silk tie and a pocket square, emphasize the social prestige of the lecturer. John (Michał Staszczak) does not cover himself up, even a little flirtatious. He constantly picks up his cell phone and casually talks about buying a big house. In front of John sits a young student in a dark gray uniform with his hair tied back in a knot. Shrinking body and trembling sound are evidence of uncertainty. The girl’s name (Elżbieta Zajko) is Carol, awidz gives the impression that he almost wants to disappear. During the conversation, we learn that John did not appreciate the student’s writing, but nevertheless, he is ready to lend a helping hand. How much will it cost?

photo: Krzysztof Bieliński / mat. theater

In the second part, the professor is no longer so elegant. His appearance is a little more ordinary. Carol itself undergoes a certain metamorphosis. From a shy, lost and needy girl, she turns into a young woman who is confident in her charm, not only commits provocation, but also begins to demand her rights as a student. He was wearing high boots and a fairly short dress, and was painted in an eye-catching style. The atmosphere, which is a bit like listening in the first part, becomes even more tense. This time, Carol is slowly gaining control. He is now enforcing his own rules of the game, threatening to inform university officials about the alleged sexual abuse.

The third part shows a complete change of roles. He welcomes John Carol, who is tired, obviously tense, and in a creased shirt, to his office. The girl is clearly aggressive. He not only suggests that he accuse John of rape, but also threatens that there is evidence of this and that he is forced to act because he considers himself the voice of other students. This time, Carol’s image is flawless. Dressed in a gray coat, white high-heeled shoes, a black briefcase in his hand, reminiscent of a prosecutor. In John’s presence, he subversively paints his lips with red lipstick. He always emphasizes that it is used by him. John is angry. It is just a step away from violence. The show ends with a stop. John and Carol are amazed and amazed at their behavior, as if they were led by an unknown force.

photo: Krzysztof Bieliński / mat. theater

It should be noted that the characters in the Lodz show are psychologically perfectly managed. Every emotion is written on the faces and bodies of the actors. You can say that in the intimate space of the Small Stage we can feel almost every breath of them. The expressive power of this play was undoubtedly influenced by the direction of the light and the perfectly adapted set design. Venues are only offered here, not presented in real life. Carol’s room is limited to a dressing table with a mirror and a top, and John’s house is limited to bookshelves. The main place for the game is a university room with a large table and two chairs. It is a writing desk that has become a silent witness to almost all the conversations of our heroes. The power of Krzysztof Prus’s performance is to show a comprehensive analysis of the psychological state of the characters. Although the meaning of Mammad’s dramaturgy is quite clear, it is difficult to see any position, propaganda or ideology being shaken in the play.

Oleanna. Author: David Mamet; translation: Marek Kędzierski; directing and musical design: Krzysztof Prus; set design, costumes and lighting design: Marek Mikulski. Theater Stefan Jaracz premiered on May 28, 2022 in Lodz (Small Stage).

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