Spotlight Theater to close season with Mamet’s ‘Oleanna’
July 18, 2012 3:52PM
Megan Captaine plays Carol in Spotlight Theater's "Oleanna," which also stars Rob Frankel as John. | Jeff Gamlin photo
◆ 7:30 p.m. July 20-21 and 27-28 and 3 p.m. July 22 and 29
◆ Spotlight Studio,
22032 Howell Drive, New Lenox
◆ Tickets, $15 for general admission, $12 for ages older than 61 and students with identification, and $10 for New Lenox residents who present their driver’s licenses or state IDs when purchasing tickets
◆ (708) 941-8294;
◆ Spotlight Theater presents this show by arrangement with Dramatists Play Service Inc., of New York
Updated: August 21, 2012 6:19AM
After the well-received run of Spotlight Theater’s production of the rarely performed “All Over” by Edward Albee, the troupe will open its sixth-season closer, “Oleanna.”
Officials called the work of drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Flossmoor native David Mamet powerful, controversial and thought-provoking.
Mamet is the Tony Award-nominated author of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Speed-the-Plow,” “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” “American Buffalo” and “A Life in the Theatre.”
He’s also an Oscar-nominated writer of the screenplays for “The Verdict” and “Wag the Dog.”
Mamet is known best, perhaps, for his dark comedy and intensely dramatic and sometimes tragic works filled with his distinctive style of fast-paced and realistic dialogue, so distinctive in fact that the term “Mamet-speak” has been coined to describe it.
“ ‘Oleanna’ is a prime example of this style and is certain to leave audiences hotly debating its outcome,” officials said.
The play focuses on a professor, John, and a student, Carol, who visits his office to get help with her class work.
He is in the process of buying a house to celebrate his nomination for tenure, and, at first, seems distant.
As the meeting progresses, they discuss the nature of understanding and judgment in society and their own natures and places in society. It seems a bond has been forged.
Weeks later, Carol and John meet again, and it’s discovered that they both seem to have different interpretations of what transpired between them in their first meeting.
As they begin to dissect every word and nuance of their earlier meeting, everything seems to have been twisted into something else. Or has it?
Eventually, their attempts to come to some sort of understanding lead to a most unexpected, emotionally devastating and shattering climax.
“Oleanna” debuted off-Broadway in 1992 in a production directed by the author, and starred William H. Macy and Rebecca Pidgeon, Mamet’s wife at the time.
Officials said the play’s themes of power, communication and political correctness were timely and are no less relevant now.
Spotlight’s production will be directed by the company’s president and co-founder, Jeff Gamlin, who has directed four of the last five shows for the troupe.
The Westmont resident’s directing for Spotlight has included the season opener, “The Deadly Game,” and “All Over.”
The “Oleanna” role of the professor is played by Highland Park resident Rob Frankel, an actor with experience in regional theater throughout the United States.
He was most recently seen in Chicago as H.C. Curry in BoHo Theatre’s Jeff Recommended production of “The Rainmaker.”
The student in “Oleanna” is played by Chicago resident Megan Captaine, who recently appeared in productions at Dream Theatre, RoShamBo Theatre and numerous others in the Chicago area.
“I got exactly who I wanted for these roles,” Gamlin said.
“Megan had a great deal of familiarity with this show, and specifically this role, and that really showed in her audition. I think that will be readily apparent to audiences in her performance.
“Rob actually came in to the audition cold, not having read the play, but he quickly displayed an inherent understanding of the character that no one else who read for the part did.
“I think people are going to find their performances truly gripping.”
“Oleanna” is a play that has been on Spotlight’s radar to produce since the company was formed seven years ago.
“I’ve been nominating ‘Oleanna’ for inclusion in a season lineup since day one,” Gamlin said.
“I’ve suggested it every season until, ironically, this season, when another board member — our former president, Jane Cox — took up the banner and promoted its inclusion in this season.
“Maybe the rest of our board just got sick of hearing me sing the show’s praises and needed to hear from a new voice about it. Whatever the case, I’m ecstatic that we’re finally producing it.”
The play fits with the company’s mission statement, which includes producing shows that make people think and question their own beliefs as well as the standards we live by in society.
“When I first saw this play in college in the 1990’s,” Gamlin said, “the cast and director came out after the show to have a discussion with the audience about the play.
“I was immediately struck by how polarized people’s opinions about it were. And it wasn’t divided along gender lines either.
“Some of the women sided with the character of John and some men sided with the character of Carol and vice versa, and everyone seemed to have very strong feelings about it. No one seemed unmoved.
“It was a heated debate to be sure, and I hope our audiences will have a similar reaction. It’s always a thrill to see theater stirring people up, getting them to care about and really think about issues.”
“Oleanna,” for which Bolingbrook resident Whitney Smith is serving as assistant director, will be performed in Spotlight’s recently acquired new performance space in New Lenox.
The company celebrates its first full year of performing in it new home with this production.
“We have spent a lot of time making a lot of changes, renovations and improvements to the theater in the last year, especially the last eight months,” Gamlin said.
“Anyone who came to our first two shows here wouldn’t even recognize the place now. Between new carpeting, wall coverings and curtains and other decorations, it’s a whole new place. And that list doesn’t begin to cover it really.
“Perhaps most importantly for this summer show, we’ve installed air conditioning, which will be a pleasant surprise to patrons who endured the heat with us last summer for ‘Talk Radio,’ our first show in our new place and one that took place only 17 days after moving in, so there wasn’t time yet to get air conditioning set up.
“We are also making some improvements that will be of interest to people looking to rent the theater for their own shows and events, including a monitor in the dressing room so the performers there can see what’s happening on stage, and much more.
“We make improvements with every show.”
As part of Spotlight’s season-long celebration of moving into the company’s new home, the troupe is offering discounted ticket prices to New Lenox residents with identification to encourage them to come for a visit.
There also is a raffle that any patron can take part in, and the prizes include gift certificates from local restaurants and a massage therapist, valued at as much as $50.
“Oleanna” Spotlight’s sixth season, but patrons won’t have to wait long to see another of the troupe’s productions as the seventh season will be announced at this season’s closing performances.