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Drama

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OLEANNA In David Mamet’s play “ Oleanna,” all of the action takes place in the claustrophobic space of a college office. The reason thatMamet chooses this confined space is that it rivets the audience in the drama between the two characters: there are no distracting set changes. The office also is directly involved in the plot of the play, since it represents the space where John is being threatened, at his work; therefore, Carol is an invader into this space, but John has the role of authority in it, which he uses to belittle her and perhaps harass her. “ Well, all right. (Pause) Let’s see. (He reads.) I find that I am sexist. That I am elitist. I’m not sure I know what that means, other than it’s a derogatory word, meaning “ bad.” (Mamet, 2004). Also invasive in the play is the playwright’s use of the telephone, which never stops ringing and interrupting the characters, especially at key points of tension. “ in class I… (He picks up the phone.)  (Into phone:) Hello.  I can’t talk now.  Jerry?  Yes?  I underst … I can’t talk now.  I know … I know … Jerry. I can’t talk now” (Mamet, 2004). Mamet chooses the phone and office because they represent John’s threatened work life, and also, in the case of the phone, to introduce a sort of third, unintelligible, character.
The use of the office changes between Act I and Act II of the play, but its purpose remains essentially the same: it is the space of tension in the play, as the audience tries to figure out what happened, and whether or not Carol was harassed. The office also informs the behavior of the characters, such as John’s patronizing, self-aggrandizing tone. “ That I That I insist on wasting time, in nonprescribed, in self-aggrandizing and theatrical diversions from the prescribed text that these have taken both sexist and pornographic forms here we find listed” (Mamet, 2004). When they are immersed in the world of the office that Mamet creates, the audience has to pay attention to the dialog and relationship between the characters. They are not distracted by different sets and a lot of decorations; the drama becomes the focal point. “ All right?  I’m sure it’s going to be … (Pause)  I hope so.  (Pause)  I love you, too.  (Pause)  I love you, too.  As soon as … I will. (He hangs up.)” (Mamet, 2004). The office is also a space which, even though it technically remains the same, changes between Act I and Act II in terms of the way in which the audience sees it.
The telephone in John’s office is like a third character in the play, which the other characters can interact with, and which John can speak into. However, the audience never hears the voice on the other end of the phone, and therefore has to make up what the other person is saying, in their minds. “ We can only interpret the behavior of others through the screen we… (The phone rings.)  Through… (To phone)Hello?  (To CAROL:) Through the screen we create.  (To phone) Hello.  (To CAROL:) Excuse me a moment.  (To phone:) Hello?” (Mamet, 2004). In this dialog, the true power of the phone’s interruptions is also shown. At key points of tension in the play, the phone rings, and because he is in the setting of the office, John is obliged to pick it up, even if it is right when Carol is saying something dramatic. “ I always … all my life … I have never told anyone this… JOHN: Yes.  Go on.  (Pause) Go on. CAROL: All of my life… (The phone rings.)” (Mamet, 2004). The phone is like an invasive character that represents the troubles that these characters are having figuring out how to communicate with each other, and therefore, the phone, along with the office, also serves as an effective plot device in the play.
REFERENCE
Mamet, D (2004). Oleanna. New York: Hyperion.

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