David Mamet should have called his short new play, now at the Orpheum, Office Hours instead of Oleanna, which is, apparently, a pointless allusion to an old Utopian community. It takes place in a bleakly functional faculty office that is furnished with—no, that is—a wooden desk, two chairs, and a sort of bench. It has the spare, stark, penitential look of such places. John, a professor of education or psychology or sociology (the vagueness here is a weakness, as we shall see), is coping with student Carol, who fears she is not succeeding in the course. Also, she wants her paper re-evaluated. Her line in argument —“I have to pass”; “I read your book”; “I did what you told me”—will be familiar to anyone who has ever taught. But Carol, with her horn-rims, ankle-length brown shift, and rigid postures of strain and pain, seems dour and troubled beyond the norm. “Am I...


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