“Who doesn’t love a good fight?” says director Wayne Mell of Skokie Theatre/MadKap Productions’ “Oleanna”. This hand-wringer of a play by David Mamet is a tour-de-force argument.

Mell spoke with Evanston Now about the show, which has remained popular in Chicago and throughout America as a conversation on sexism and the power of the patriarchy since its debut in 1992. 

What is it about Oleanna that keeps it onstage in the Chicago area?

Why Oleanna? Because who doesn’t love a good fight. Not only does it examine issues of sexism, but it also explores power struggles between people in authority and those who are dependent on them, and it examines revenge and the dangers of following that path.

There are a lot of universal truths in these characters that turns “Oleanna” into one of those plays that people talk about on the way home, over coffee, and for the next several days, regardless of which character they side with.

What’s the atmosphere of your Oleanna rehearsal room like?

It was a wonderful rehearsal process. Ali and Gerry hadn’t met before we started work on “Oleanna,” and they developed a great working relationship very early in the process.

The trust they built is crucial in a play like this, where people are horrible to each other onstage, and then have to face each other when the curtain goes down. They learned that they could say and do anything to each other on stage, but still feel secure that their partner was there to support them.

It would have been extremely difficult to do this play without that bond between them. As in all Mamet plays, the characters are very layered and nuanced, and we spent many of our rehearsal hours just examining passages in the script and what the multiple meanings could be, and then how did that affect the reaction of the other.

This sort of table work usually lasts days in a normal drama, but in this case it took weeks. However, as a result, we’ve created some very real characters who can lay their issues out for everyone to examine.

Tell us about Skoke Theater and MadKap! What’s next for you?

Oleanna was the fourth and final show in our 2014-15 subscription series. We just announced the 2015-16 series and have already begun work on that: “Next to Normal” in September, “The Lion in Winter” in November, “Beau Jest” in February, and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” next April.

We are also producing a Short Play Festival for August, for which we are currently welcoming proposals from local directors. We just completed our first annual Skokie Idol competition, which runs from January to March, and are finalizing plans for next years competition. And in between all of this, we are scheduling live entertainment of all types to keep the Skokie Theatre as a viable performing arts center in downtown Skokie.

“Oleanna” runs through May 10, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, at Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave, Skokie. More information is available online at

Leave a comment

The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.