One of my favorite perks of living in the Los Angeles area is that aside from the occasional celebrity sighting about town (Amy Adams eating barbeque, anyone?), there are always opportunities to see some very fine film actors returning to the stage.
Case in point: Oleanna by David Mamet at the Mark Taper Forum. The beautiful Julia Stiles and the very talented Bill Pullman create a tension filled story of a soon-to-be tenured professor and a frustrated young student. Pullman offers to help Stiles' character to pass the class, and over the course of three acts, she uses his words against him in ways he nor the audience would have ever anticipated.
Audiences at the Mark Taper Forum are typically an older, wealthy crowd that are well-behaved, well-versed theater goers. Never before have I heard this audience audibly respond to what was happening on stage with such gasps and little shrieks or cheers or hisses under the breath as I have in this production. The text and performances are so gut-wrenching and powerful that everyone in the house was either cringing or leaning forward in their seats.
The examinations of power dynamics of gender roles and the institutions of higher education are abrupt and personal. Pullman and Stiles' performances are two of the best that I have seen this year. This show is not for the weak of heart.
Also, remember that anything at the Center Theater Group (Mark Taper Forum, the Ahmanson, and the Kirk Douglas Theater) offers $20 "Hot Tix" if you buy at the door! Great theater for the price of a movie and popcorn.