Oleanna Reviews

Bay Guardian Online:  “[a] beautifully calibrated, consistently stimulating production”

True to the mission implied in its name, Spare Stage offers dramatic purity en lieu of flashy stage concepts in this beautifully calibrated, consistently stimulating production of David Mamet’s 1992 two-hander, about a university professor (Aaron Murphy) and the female undergrad (Frannie Morrison) who accuses him of sexual misconduct. The action takes place exclusively inside the small office where John, on the verge of gaining tenure and simultaneously closing a deal on a new house, meets with his failing student Carol, a young woman who, ironically enough, seems lost by the concepts her professor deploys in his lectures on the social underpinnings of higher education (insights he recycles from his recently minted book, which is naturally the assigned reading).

What begins as a condescending tutorial by the distracted prof soon turns into a vaguely prurient extracurricular exercise and, then, a table-turning power struggle as the initially introverted and stumbling Frannie returns with serious and highly articulate charges of impropriety throwing John’s tenure and world into jeopardy. Now it’s his turn to try to explain and justify himself. The power struggle throughout is grippingly played by the remarkably potent team of Murphy and Morrison, who, under the shrewd direction of Stephen Drewes, lock into a dynamic battle of wills where minute changes in posture can say as much about the cloaked, institutionalized nature of power as anything in Mamet’s precise and heightened dialogue.

Robert Avila