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Oleanna 

When: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. and Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 13 2012
Price: $15-$30
TheatreFIRST.com

Some of the dialogue sounded a little halting on opening night, but TheatreFIRST's production of David Mamet's 1992 drama Oleanna should be quite polished by the middle of the run. Artistic director Michael Storm, who plays the pouchy, troubled, erudite, blithely sexist and somewhat bumbling professor John in this play, has a knack for interesting casting decisions. In this case, he cast a Latina actress, Josie Alvarez, in the part of Carol, the student who accuses John of sexual harassment after a series of miscommunications. By playing the race card, he adds an extra layer of ambiguity to what otherwise might have been a more starkly black-and-white storyline. Whereas a white Carol might have seemed despicable and opportunistic, and Latina Carol is much more clearly demarcated from her privileged, condescending professor. Forceful acting and subtle stage directions help enhance Mamet's powerful script, and make this play germane to current debates about higher education. It's perhaps no accident that the play is staged just two blocks from UC Berkeley. Through May 13 at Berkeley City Club (2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley). $10-$30. 510-436-5085 or TheatreFirst.com

— Rachel Swan

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