LAYWRIGHT David Mamet throws gasoline on the fiery debate over "political correctness" in academia in his new play, "Oleanna." His short play, part of the American Repertory Theatre's New Stages program (through May 24), is loaded with sexual politics. Mr. Mamet's two characters are a professor soon to be granted tenure and an intimidated female student.
It's easy to sympathize with the student: She's paralyzed with doubt about her capacity to learn, but her search for knowledge quickly surges into anger that the professor - and male authorities - are keeping power (knowledge) from her. Her professor, a pedantic but not uncaring man, tries to help. But his efforts backfire, fueling instead her accusation of sexual abuse and rape. Mamet turns the woman into a monster, full of political-pressure tactics and feminist-agenda grievances. The play, while ambig uous in many ways, shows Mamet to be firmly on the professor's side.