Whatever side you’re on, you’re wrong.

That’s the tagline being used on many of the promotional materials.  My week of theatre moved forward with the recent revival of David Mamet’s Oleanna, starring Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles.  Being a fan of both stars, I was excited to see if both could pull off acting on-stage as well as they had on screen.  I will admit to having reservations when it came to Ms. Stiles though.  I saw her on-stage in 2005 in Playwrights Horizons’ production of Fran’s Bed (by Joan Marcus) and was left a bit underwhelmed (which was rather disappointing considering that I’m a huge fan of her film work).  Still, I saw the role of Carol as a role better suited for Stiles, so I kept my spirits high as John and I took our front mezzanine seats (thanks to TDF’s pick-a-tix booth at the Flea Market) in The Golden Theatre.

Oleanna is an 80-minute one act, three scene play that tells the story of a college professor, John,  (at an unnamed prestigious university) who has just received tenure and one of his students whom he’s taken an interest in when she meets with him to tell him that she doesn’t understand what he’s teaching and wants desperately to understand.  He tells her that he’ll re-teach the course to her personally, if she wishes.  The second scene occurs after Carol (Stiles) has reported a sexual harassment complaint to the tenure board and John (Pullman) is in danger of losing his promotion.  Carol claims that he was coming onto her and distorts a number of other things that were said during their first meeting.  Before trying to exit his office, John grabs her (a big no-no for a professor, I learned, when John (my friend), an aspiring professor, gasped).

The climax in the final scene had everyone gasping, and John had a grip on my arm so firm that it nearly cut off my circulation.  “I loved every moment of that, I was totally on his side.”  I won’t disclose what happened though.

Bill Pullman gave a convincing and fluid performance as John.  Everyone line flowed and it seemed quite natural to him – and when reading his former credits in the Playbill beforehand, it seems theatre is second nature to him.

Julia Stiles, however, was a bit more stagnant and unnatural in her role.  It felt rather forced when she was delivering her lines.  My assumption that this is a role that was more easily relatable for someone her age was correct – she was better than in Fran’s Bed.  Still, she lacked.  I think it’s a safe assumption to conclude that sadly, she is an actress whose strength relies on camera close-ups on her facial expressions for her talent to truly come across; and onstage, that just can’t happen.

This is a truly enjoyable 80 minutes at the theatre; never once does it drag and it captivates you from the first few minutes until the end.  Incase you want to pick up tickets of your own, you buy them at the box office at The Golden Theatre (45th between Broadway and 8th) or at Telecharge.com, and here is a code to get a 45% discount ($59 Tuesdays – Fridays and only $65 Saturdays and Sundays): OLCD99