Collected Stories Is a Must-See Play
Collected Stories is a must-see play!by Juli Parker, MOTIF
Donald Margulies’ Collected Stories, now playing at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren, is a must-see play for many reasons: the writing, the acting, the set, and the fact that two strong women characters drive the show.
Lynne Collinson, as Ruth Steiner, is a professor of writing and a published short story writer. Her graduate student, Lisa Morrison, played by Gabby Sherba, is a budding and overly exuberant writer who knows all of Ruth’s work by heart, including her “uncollected works.”
The play spans six years of these women’s lives as they build a mentor/mentee relationship as Lisa becomes Ruth’s assistant, then a friendship as Lisa gets her first collection of stories published, and finally a mother/daughter relationship that violently unravels in a riveting last scene.
The acting is impeccable. Lynne Collinson wears the writer-turned-professor like a glove, balancing the tough love of teaching with her own need for companionship. She tells Lisa she is a professor so she can get away from herself, as writers can become hermits. Gabby Sherba, back to 2nd Story after a stint away from Rhode Island, has not only grown up, but plays a woman growing into herself in her 20s with perfection. In the final scene, she plays a woman who makes sense compared to the young woman who babbles her way into her first tutorial with her professor in the opening scene.
Mark Peckham’s direction is clear and poignant. Trevor Elliot beautifully designs the perfectly cluttered living room of a single woman writer who has lived in the same space for over 30 years.
There is much to be considered in this play. Who gets to tell whose story? When does the student become the teacher? How do our mentor/mentee relationships resemble those with our families? And who owns our stories? Or are they merely borrowed?
I took my mother to this show and we talked about the explosive ending (no spoiler alert from this critic) all the way home. We were not in agreement about who gets to tell whose story. Do we write what we know or is there a line a writer must never cross in telling someone else’s story? Maybe seeing Collected Stories will help you decide, or maybe it won’t.