David Mamet's three-act play 'Oleanna' is essentially about the destructiveness of miscommunication, with its emphases on academy politics, teacher-student relationship and sexism & sexual harassment.
Concerned about her failure in the course, Carol, a college student, meets her professor, John. Carol alleges that she doesn't understand the verbose lectures of her professor. During the most part of act 1, the professor appears as callous and interruptive, engaged in telephonic conversation with his wife regarding real estate matters, while Carol is unable to speak out her mind. But John then expresses 'empathy' for her, and wants to bend the rules to give Carol an 'A' grade if she agrees to meet him to discuss the matter. John touches Carol's shoulders on several occasions asking her to sit down or to stay on in the office.
Later, Carol writes a letter of complaint against her professor alleging that John is lewd and sexist. She claims that his intention was not good when he touched her shoulder. She believed it was a case of sexual harassment. In the final act of the play, John is fired and he is about to leave. It is further known that Carol has filed criminal charges of battery and attempted rape.
There is no real serious sexual harassment in the play, and both the student and the teacher are deeply flawed. Carol shows an underlying deviousness, using the plea of physical contact as a means to take revenge on her teacher. The teacher is pompous and foolish.
Mamet handles the theme of sexual harassment and sexism in a curious, critical light. It is not a simple case of the harassment of the female by the male, but the callous, dubious, pompous foolishness of the male power vis a vis the intriguing appropriation of male power by the female by using the ploy of sexist bias and sexual harassment.