Can divisive 'Oleanna' unite Tony voters?
David Mamet likes to provoke audiences so he should be pleased with the divided critical response to the Broadway revival of "Oleanna." This battle of the sexes was a huge hit off Broadway in 1992 but this production marks its first Broadway staging.
The stars of this version of "Oleanna" are Bill Pullman -- who earned a Drama Desk nod for his only other Broadway appearance in 2002's "The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?" -- and rialto newcomer Julia Stiles. Stiles starred in an acclaimed 2004 London production of "Oleanna" opposite Aaron Eckhart and she and Pullman appeared in this same staging earlier this year in Los Angeles.
Mamet is a prolific writer with half a dozen works having premiered on Broadway and another -- "Race" -- opening this December. Just two of these -- "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Speed-the-Plow" -- contended for best play at the Tony Awards. Though "Glengarry Glen Ross" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, it lost the top Tony to "The Real Thing" from British playwright Tom Stoppard. Four years later, "Speed-the-Plow" lost the best play race to David Henry Hwang's gender-bending "M. Butterfly."
The 2005 remounting of "Glengarry Glen Ross" did win the Tony for best revival. While last season's well received revival of "Speed-the-Plow" was snubbed in that race, Raul Esparza did land a lead actor nod. However, the restaging of Mamet's first Broadway play -- "American Buffalo" -- lasted only one week after opening last November.
Photo: Julia Stiles and Bill Pullman in "Oleanna" Credit: John Golden Theatre