Godspiel

Risk Theatre puts Judas Iscariot on trial; Oleanna goes to academic hell

By the second of three episodes in this 90-minute play, the power shift has begun. Carol has filed a complaint to the tenure committee, claiming John hit on her in that office meeting. Those offers of tutoring were a come-on. That hand on her shoulder felt like assault.

In the third scene, John's life is destroyed. His tenure is kaput, and he's out on his ear. Carol's campaign has worked. She blasts him with feminist rhetoric (learned from "The Group" supporting her). "You've worked 20 years for the right to insult me," she hisses.

But she'll retract all charges if he adopts her group's reading list and drops his own text from use. He snaps.

If you're looking for a good time at the theater, The Last Days is the last place to find it.
If you're looking for a good time at the theater, The Last Days is the last place to find it.

Details

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot continues through November 18 at Risk Theatre Initiative, 214-223-7483.
Oleanna continues through December 8 at the Black Box Theatre in the Hampton-Illinois Public Library, 214-912-9636.

Mamet may have written Oleanna as a comment on the ugly business between Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, but within the Carol v. John case lie trenchant observations on the stifling effects of the thought and speech police on modern academia. Students these days hire lawyers to appeal B-minuses and secretly record class lectures to embarrass teachers on YouTube. The power is in the students' hands now, and faculty members have to watch every P and Q.

Directed by M. Shane Hurst and Bill Fountain, the Totally Wow production doesn't quite live up to that billing. LeMaster's performance is weak. His gestures look over-rehearsed, and he stumbles through Mamet's blurts and pauses, but he gets better as the character disintegrates.

As Carol, Ponsford, a drama student at UNT, transitions nicely from pleading supplicant to tough combatant. She's a lovely young actress, whose last scene was undone just a bit the other night by a costume malfunction. As she railed at John about improper advances, the open zipper on the back of her tight skirt revealed about 6 inches of bottom.

A cuter end than Mamet had in mind.

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