This Oleanna isn't about sexual harassment, it's about the abuse of power in academia. The appearance that the professor isn't a sexual predator here seems a less persuasive defense for his innocence of flaunting the power of his position. However implausible the student's character may be, the ATP production makes us see that the academic stakes for a person in her position really are too high to be in the hands of a buffoon like this.
There's no denying that Oleanna is effective in raw theatrical terms. Its inconsistencies of thought wouldn't be so maddening if it were not such CR>a gCR>rueling, sweat-inducing melodrama. None of this tension is lost in ATP's version, but much valid ambiguity is added--Wiener and his cast give force to what's good in the play while helping us see past what's phony and sour and trumped up. They give the play a balance in performance that it only pretends to have in its text.
Actors Theatre of Phoenix's
production of Oleanna continues through Sunday, March 31, in Stage West at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. For more details, see Theatre listing in Thrills.