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Authors: David Mamet

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Oleanna: A Play

BOOK: Oleanna: A Play
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D
AVID
M
AMET’S
O
LEANNA

“No modern playright has been bolder or more brilliant in analyzing [envy’s] corrosive social effects.… Such is the power of Mamet’s storytelling that the audience receives each willful misinterpretation like a body blow … A powerful, exciting play that shows off his enormous skills as a writer.”—
The New Yorker

“Fiercely funny and trenchantly topical … [a] lapel-grabbing vision of political correctness cum intellectual terrorism.… Outlandish and entirely plausible …, it had this audience member virtually leaping out of his chair … reason enough to cheer for the future of the theater.”—
Time

“The temptation to take sides in the sex, class, and culture wars that Mamet has mapped out is almost irresistable … he is operating here at his cunning best, for purposes that give the evening a kind of dignity:
Oleanna
is a tragedy built as a series of audience traps; the minute you get suckered into thinking it says one thing, you’re likely to find it saying the opposite … A tragedy of language that Wittgenstein might have relished.”—
Village Voice

David Mamet is the author of the acclaimed plays
Speed-the-Plow, Glengarry Glen Ross
(now a motion picture starring Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon),
American Buffalo
, and
Sexual Perversity in Chicago
. He has also written screenplays for such films as
Homicide, House of Games
, and the Oscar-nominated
The Verdict
, three collections of essays, and a book of poems. His plays have won the Pulitzer Prize and the Obie Award.

ALSO BY DAVID MAMET

PLAYS

Speed the Plow
Bobby Gould in Hell
The Old Neighborhood
The Woods
The Shawl
and
Prairie du Chien
Reunion
and
Dark Pony
and
The Sanctity of Marriage
The Poet and the Rent
Lakeboat
Goldberg Street
Glengarry Glen Ross
The Frog Prince
The Water Engine
and
Mr. Happiness
Edmond
American Buffalo
A Life in the Theatre
Sexual Perversity in Chicago
and
The Duck Variations

NONFICTION

The Cabin
On Directing Film
Some Freaks
Writing in Restaurants

SCREENPLAYS

Glengarry Glen Ross
Hoffa
Homicide
Things Change
(with Shel Silverstein)
We’re No Angels
The Untouchables
The Postman Always Rings Twice
(1980)
The Verdict
House of Games

First Vintage Books Edition, May 1993

Copyright © 1992 by David Mamet

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States in paperback by Vintage Books, and in hardcover by Pantheon Books, divisions of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

CAUTION: This play is protected in whole, in part, or in any form, under the Copyright Laws of the United States of America, the British Empire, including the Dominion of Canada, and all other countries of the Copyright Union, and are subject to royalty. All rights, including professional, amateur, motion picture, recitation, radio, television, and public reading are strictly reserved. All inquiries concerning performance rights should be addressed to the author’s agent: Howard Rosenstone, 3 East 48 Street, New York, N.Y. 10017.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Mamet, David.
Oleanna / David Mamet. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
eISBN: 978-0-307-81761-7
I. Title.
PS3563.A434504    1992
812′. 54—dc20    92–50638

Author photograph © Brigitte Lacombe

v3.1

This play is dedicated to the memory of Michael Merritt

Contents

The want of fresh air does not seem much to affect the happiness of children in a London alley: the greater part of them sing and play as though they were on a moor in Scotland. So the absence of a genial mental atmosphere is not commonly recognized by children who have never known it. Young people have a marvelous faculty of either dying or adapting themselves to circumstances. Even if they are unhappy—very unhappy—it is astonishing how easily they can be prevented from finding it out, or at any rate from attributing it to any other cause than their own sinfulness.

The Way of All Flesh
Samuel Butler

“Oh, to be in
Oleanna
,
That’s where I would rather be.
Than be bound in Norway
And drag the chains of slavery.”

—folk song

Oleanna
was originally produced on the stage by The Back Bay Theater Company in association with the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 1, 1992, with the following cast:

JOHN
     
William H. Macy
CAROL
Rebecca Pidgeon

Directed by David Mamet; set design by Michael Merritt; costume design by Harriet Voyt; lighting design by Kevin Rigdon.

Oleanna
was originally produced on the New York stage by Frederick Zollo, Alan J. Schuster, Peggy Hill Rosenkranz, Ron Kastner, Thomas Viertel, Steven Baruch, Frank and Woji Gero in association with Patricia Wolff. The Back Bay Theater Company production of
Oleanna
opened on October 25, 1992 at the Orpheum Theater. It was directed by Mr. Mamet with scenery by Michael Merritt, costumes by Harriet Voyt, and lighting by Kevin Rigdon. The production stage manager was Carol Avery. The cast was as follows:

JOHN
     
William H. Macy
CAROL
Rebecca Pidgeon
CHARACTERS
CAROL
     
A woman of twenty
JOHN
A man in his forties

The play takes place in John’s office.

ONE

JOHN
is talking on the phone
.
CAROL
is seated across the desk from him
.

JOHN
(
on phone
): And what about the land. (
Pause
) The land. And what about the land? (
Pause
) What about it? (
Pause
) No. I don’t understand. Well, yes, I’m I’m … no, I’m
sure
it’s signif … I’m sure it’s significant. (
Pause
) Because it’s significant to mmmmmm … did you call Jerry? (
Pause
) Because … no, no, no, no, no. What did they say …? Did you speak to the
real
estate … where
is
she …? Well, well, all right. Where are her notes? Where are the notes we took with her. (
Pause
) I thought you were? No. No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that, I just thought that I saw you, when we were there … what …? I thought I saw you with a
pencil
. WHY NOW? is what I’m say … well, that’s why I say “call Jerry.” Well, I can’t right now, be … no, I
didn’t
schedule any … Grace: I
didn’t
 … I’m well aware … Look: Look. Did you call Jerry? Will you call Jerry …? Because I can’t now. I’ll be there, I’m sure I’ll be there in fifteen, in twenty. I intend to. No, we aren’t
going
to lose the, we aren’t
going
to lose the house. Look: Look, I’m not minimizing it. The “easement.” Did she say “easement”? (
Pause
) What did she
say; is
it a “term of art,” are we
bound
by it … I’m sorry … (
Pause
) are: we: yes.
Bound
by … Look: (
He checks his watch.
) before the other side
goes home
, all right? “a term of art.” Because: that’s right (
Pause
) The yard for the boy. Well, that’s the whole … Look: I’m going to meet you there … (
He checks his watch.
) Is the realtor there? All right, tell her to show you the basement again. Look at the
this
because … Bee … I’m leaving in, I’m leaving in ten or fifteen … Yes. No, no, I’ll meet you at the new … That’s a good. If he thinks it’s necc … you tell Jerry to meet … All right? We
aren’t
going to lose the deposit. 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.
) (
He bends over the desk and makes a note.
) (
He looks up.
) (
To
CAROL
:) I’m sorry …

CAROL
: (
Pause
) What is a “term of art”?

JOHN
: (
Pause
) I’m sorry …?

CAROL
: (
Pause
) What is a “term of art”?

JOHN
: Is that what you want to talk about?

CAROL
: … to talk about …?

JOHN
: Let’s take the mysticism out of it, shall we? Carol? (
Pause
) Don’t you think? I’ll tell you: when you have some “thing.” Which must be broached. (
Pause
) Don’t you think …? (
Pause
)

CAROL
: … don’t I think …?

JOHN
: Mmm?

CAROL
: … did I …?

JOHN
: … what?

CAROL
: Did … did I … did I say something wr …

JOHN
: (
Pause
) No. I’m sorry. No. You’re right. I’m very sorry. I’m somewhat rushed. As you see. I’m sorry. You’re right. (
Pause
) What is a “term of art”? It seems to mean a
term
, which has come, through its use, to mean something
more specific
than the words would, to someone
not acquainted
with them … indicate. That, I believe, is what a “term of art,” would mean. (
Pause
)

CAROL
: You don’t know what it means …?

JOHN
: I’m not sure that I know what it means. It’s one of those things, perhaps you’ve had them, that,
you look them up, or have someone explain them to you, and you say “aha,” and, you immediately
forget
what …

CAROL
: You don’t do that.

JOHN
: … I …?

CAROL
: You don’t do …

JOHN
: … I don’t, what …?

CAROL
: … for …

JOHN
: … I don’t for …

CAROL
: … no …

JOHN
: … forget things? Everybody does that.

CAROL
: No, they don’t.

JOHN
: They don’t …

CAROL
: No.

JOHN
: (
Pause
) No. Everybody does that.

CAROL
: Why would they do that …?

JOHN
: Because. I don’t know. Because it doesn’t interest them.

CAROL
: No.

JOHN
: I think so, though. (
Pause
) I’m sorry that I was distracted.

CAROL
: You don’t have to say that to me.

JOHN
: You paid me the compliment, or the “obeisance”—all right—of coming in here … All right.
Carol
. I find that I am at a
standstill
. I find that I …

CAROL
: … what …

JOHN
: … one moment. In regard to your … to your …

CAROL
: Oh, oh. You’re buying a new house!

JOHN
: No, let’s get on with it.

CAROL
: “get on”? (
Pause
)

JOHN
: I know how … 
believe
me. I know how … potentially
humiliating
these … I have no desire to … I have no desire other than to help you. But: (
He picks up some papers on his desk.
) I won’t even say “but.” I’ll say that as I go back over the …

CAROL
: I’m just, I’m just trying to …

JOHN
: … no, it will not do.

CAROL
: … what? What will …?

JOHN
: No. I see, I see what you, it … (
He gestures to the papers.
) but your work …

CAROL
: I’m just: I sit in class I … (
She holds up her notebook.
) I take notes …

JOHN
(
simultaneously with
“notes”): Yes. I understand. What I am trying to
tell
you is that some, some basic …

CAROL
: … I …

JOHN
: … one moment: some basic missed communi …

CAROL
: I’m doing what I’m told. I bought your book, I read your …

JOHN
: No, I’m sure you …

CAROL
: No, no, no. I’m doing what I’m told. It’s
difficult
for me. It’s
difficult …

JOHN
: … but …

CAROL
: I don’t … lots of the
language …

JOHN
: … please …

CAROL
: The
language
, the “things” that you say …

JOHN
: I’m sorry. No. I don’t think that that’s true.

CAROL
: It
is
true. I …

JOHN
: I think …

CAROL
: It
is
true.

JOHN
: … I …

CAROL
: Why would I …?

JOHN
: I’ll tell you why: you’re an incredibly bright girl.

CAROL
: … I …

JOHN
: You’re an incredibly … you have no problem with the … Who’s kidding who?

CAROL
: … I …

JOHN
: No. No. I’ll tell you why. I’ll tell.… I think you’re
angry
, I …

CAROL
: … why would I …

JOHN
: … wait one moment. I …

CAROL
: It
is
true. I have
problems …

JOHN
: … every …

CAROL
: … I come from a different
social …

JOHN
: … ev …

CAROL
: a different economic …

JOHN
: … Look:

CAROL
: No. I: when I
came
to this school:

JOHN
: Yes. Quite … (
Pause
)

CAROL
: … does that mean nothing …?

JOHN
: … but look: look …

CAROL
: … I …

JOHN
: (
Picks up paper.
) Here: Please: Sit down. (
Pause
) Sit down. (
Reads from her paper.
) “I think that the ideas contained in this work express the author’s feelings in a way that he intended, based on his results.” What can that mean? Do you see? What …

CAROL
: I, the best that I …

JOHN
: I’m saying, that perhaps this course …

CAROL
: No, no, no, you can’t, you can’t … I have to …

JOHN
: … how …

CAROL
: … I have to pass it …

JOHN
: Carol, I:

CAROL
: I
have
to pass this course, I …

JOHN
: Well.

CAROL
: … don’t you …

JOHN
: Either the …

CAROL
: … I …

JOHN
: … either the, I … either the
criteria
for judging progress in the class are …

CAROL
: No, no, no, no, I have to pass it.

JOHN
: Now, look: I’m a human being, I …

CAROL
: I did what you told me. I did, I did everything that, I read your
book
, you told me to buy your book and read it. Everything you
say
I … (
She gestures to her notebook.
) (
The phone rings.
) I do.… Ev …

JOHN
: … look:

CAROL
: … everything I’m told …

JOHN
: Look. Look. I’m not your
father.
(
Pause
)

CAROL
: What?

JOHN
: I’m.

CAROL
: Did I say you were my father?

JOHN
: … no …

CAROL
: Why did you say that …?

JOHN
: I …

CAROL
: … why …?

JOHN
: … 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. Yes, I. Call me back in … Thank you. (
He hangs up.
) (
To
CAROL
:) What do you want me to do? We are two people, all right? Both of whom have subscribed to …

CAROL
: No, no …

JOHN
: … certain arbitrary …

CAROL
: No. You have to help me.

JOHN
: Certain institutional … you tell me what you want me to do.… You tell me what you want me to …

CAROL
: How can I go back and tell them the
grades
that I …

JOHN
: … what can I do …?

CAROL
:
Teach
me.
Teach
me.

JOHN
: … I’m trying to teach you.

CAROL
: I read your book. I read it. I don’t under …

JOHN
: … you don’t understand it.

CAROL
: No.

JOHN
: Well, perhaps it’s not well
written …

CAROL
(
simultaneously with
“written”): No. No. No. I want to
understand
it.

JOHN
: What don’t you understand? (
Pause
)

CAROL
:
Any
of it. What you’re trying to say. When you talk about …

JOHN
: … yes …? (
She consults her notes.
)

CAROL
: “Virtual warehousing of the young” …

JOHN
: “Virtual warehousing of the young.” If we artificially prolong adolescence …

CAROL
: … and about “The Curse of Modern Education.”

JOHN
: … well …

CAROL
: I don’t …

JOHN
: Look. It’s just a
course
, it’s just a
book
, it’s just a …

CAROL
: No. No. There are
people
out there. People who came
here
. To know something they didn’t
know
. Who
came
here. To be
helped
. To be
helped
. So someone would
help
them. To
do
something. To
know
something. To get, what do they say? “To get on in the world.” How can I do that if I don’t, if I fail? But I don’t
understand
. I don’t
understand
. I don’t understand what anything means … and I walk around. From morning ’til night: with this one thought in my head. I’m
stupid
.

JOHN
: No one thinks you’re stupid.

CAROL
: No? What am I …?

JOHN
: I …

CAROL
: … what am I, then?

JOHN
: I think you’re angry. Many people are. I have a
telephone
call that I have to make. And an
appointment
,
which is rather
pressing;
though I sympathize with your concerns, and though I wish I had the time, this was not a previously scheduled meeting and I …

CAROL
: … you think I’m nothing …

JOHN
: … have an appointment with a
realtor
, and with my wife and …

CAROL
: You think that I’m stupid.

JOHN
: No. I certainly don’t.

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