REVIEW: “Oleanna” at Reno Little Theater

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Reno Little Theater presents “Oleanna,” a stark and thought-provoking play that will be sure to stir emotions and elicit opinions.

“Oleanna” is a two- character, three-act play where John (a male university professor) and Carol (a female university student enrolled in his course) are engaged in an emotional, verbal, physical, and social-cultural power struggle in his office.

Throughout the play the audience reacts to and judges the transgression of sexual harassment.

“Oleanna” is themed after the 1991 sexual harassment charges that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas faced against his former coworker, Anita Hill.

In the first act, a very upset Carol comes to speak with John about her failing grade and lack of understanding regarding his convoluted teaching style. During this difficult conversation, both characters struggle to express themselves clearly. John tries to touch Carol, who is physically taken aback by his gestures and proximity.

In act two, Carol files formal complaints against John risking his tenure at the university. This only serves to further anger John, and his behavior with Carol escalates dramatically. By the end, some members of the audience were crying, unable to leave.

It is intense and emotional.

The characters of John (played by James Mardock) and Carol (played by Libby Bakke) provide compelling performances that almost justify and validate victim blaming.

You may find yourself, quite briefly, understanding John’s self-imposed “situation” because of what he ultimately loses. For a few fleeting moments, John’s violent anger seems justified because cultural norms accept and reward him as a privileged individual.

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However, the play takes place in 2018, and times have changed.

This realization of the brutality of John’s actions literally comes to light at the conclusion of the play. The silence of the audience, their uneasiness to clap, and the distress of individuals unable to leave their seats are visceral reactions to the trauma they have witnessed.

While this is clearly a culturally relevant play, audience beware: “Oleanna” covers very difficult topics.

(Some may need support or conversation after the play. If you need to talk a trained professional or need local referrals, please call 800-656-HOPE (4673), or visit www.rainn.org/articles/sexual-harassment.)

The Details

Dates:

Evening Show Dates: 9/7, 9/8, 9/13 (tt), 9/14, 9/15, 9/20 (tt), 9/21, 9/22 @ 7:30 p.m.

Matinee Show Dates: 9/7 (FREE), 9/8, 9/14 (FREE), 9/15*, 9/22, 9/29 @ 2 p.m. (tt) = Thirsty Thursday- FREE drink with ticket purchase, * denotes post-show talk-back.

Tickets:

  • Adult: $25
  • Senior/Military: $20
  • Student: $15

Cast:

  • Libby Bakke as Carol, the student
  • James Mardock as John, the professor

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Victoria Janicke
About Victoria Janicke 27 Articles
Torri is back in Reno in pursuit of what sets her soul on fire: documenting social issues and following stories wherever she goes. After her last freelance story with ThisIsReno in 2014, Torri has spent the past four years as a bilingual advocate for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and other traumatic crimes in diverse cities from San Diego to the rural deep South where she earned her master's degree in social work. There, she developed a successful non-profit food pantry on campus, established, and created a disaster relief initiative for the School of Social Work and even volunteered to support refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan over a winter holiday break.