One of 1993’s best productions–and probably its most provocative–Michael Maggio’s staging of David Mamet’s controversial play has grown enormously in sly effectiveness since its opening last September. The main reason is Daniel Mooney’s much-improved performance as a put-upon college professor whose career crashes around him when a student accuses him of being elitist, sexist, and pedantic. Mooney always had a strong grasp on his character’s emotional imbalance, a mix of idealistic high-mindedness, smug self-absorption, and self-destructive weakness. But he has finally loosened up enough to master Mamet’s fluid, carefully crafted language as well, a language that brilliantly conveys the impotence and alienation of its painstakingly articulate character and the decaying liberal establishment he embodies. Now that Mooney is more evenly matched with Kara Zediker–whose blistering portrayal of the student burns with vulnerability, irony, and the fervor of a generation dispossessed by its elders’ failures–Oleanna is in hilarious and harrowing form as a sharp, cautionary, Orwellian satire of our society’s ever-accelerating fragmentation. Wellington Theater, 750 W. Wellington, 975-7171. Open run: Tuesdays-Fridays, esdays-Fri days, 8 PM; Saturdays, 6 and 9 PM, Sundays, 3 and 7 PM; additional matinee selected Wednesdays, 2 PM. $29.50-$36.50.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dan Rest.