Two or three years ago, a friend named Daniel Pastor told me that he wanted to translate David Mamet's Oleanna and produce it onstage in Mexico City. Politely, I tried to discourage him, pointing out that the play had already been translated and produced here in the mid 1990s. I wondered out loud whether a twenty-year-old play that deals with sexual harassment would be understood in a country where sexual harassment is common, if not the norm.
Luckily, Daniel didn't give up. I went to the opening last Saturday and, to judge from the audience reaction, Oleanna is as relevant as ever -- perhaps more meaningful in Mexico today than it was fifteen years ago, as more people wake up to the concept of harassment.
It is a two-character play about a seemingly mousy and hapless university student who comes to a professor's office to implore him not to give her a failing grade. As John, the harried teacher, Juan Manuel Bernal's long-winded, pedantic speechifying is spot-on, but as Carol, his surprising pupil, Irene Azuela kicks ass. When the power shifts in the second and third scenes of the play, she is frightening in her intransigence and vengefulness.
Oleanna is on a Thursday through Sunday schedule at Teatro El Granero, behind the Auditorio Nacional in Chapultepec Park. Sadly, most of my friends in Mexico City never go to the theatre. Don't even think about missing this.