Collected Stories Review
A compelling, relatable script, combined with profound direction and extraordinary performances, makes "Collected Stories" a must-see.by Christopher Verleger, EDGE
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Well, I suppose that depends.
2nd Story Theatre’s superb production of Donald Margulies’ drama, “Collected Stories,” examines the fascinating, complex relationship between professor and scholar, where feelings of admiration, honor and even idol worship are interchangeable with envy, resentment and presumption — in both directions.
A magnificent Lynne Collinson perfectly portrays renowned author Ruth Steiner, stoic and set in her ways yet somehow sensitive to the aspirations of her young, impressionable admirer, Lisa Morrison, played by an equally luminescent Gabby Sherba.
Upon Lisa’s arrival at Ruth’s cramped yet tidy apartment for her first tutorial, she wastes no time sharing her immeasurable adoration for the author’s work, spouting titles both well-known and obscure. In the course of their introductory meeting, the seemingly impassive Ruth becomes aware of her protégé’s incorrigible need for approval, or at least encouragement. By the conversation’s end, a softer, less resistant Ruth assures Lisa of her “innate” talent as a writer and even hires her as a personal assistant.
Mark Peckham’s steady, precise direction of these two skilled actresses invites the audience to experience the peaks and plateaus of their relationship as they evolve from trusted friends to rival colleagues.
Throughout the play, their initial dispositions remain mostly intact — Ruth as the accomplished, self-reliant mentor and Lisa, the uncertain, dutiful apprentice. Yet when Lisa begins to experience some success, Ruth finds herself outside her comfort zone, proud of her pupil and surrogate daughter, but admittedly jealous and even insecure. Furthermore, when Lisa becomes an established author, her method of paying tribute to Ruth is questionable, at best.
While these two women are creative writers, the teacher-student dynamic is universally applicable: a coach to his star athlete, or with older and younger siblings, as well as parents to their children. Like these scenarios and the defined role of each participant, “Collected Stories” illustrates the potentially formidable result when a former novice no longer seeks an expert’s advice or opinion.
A compelling, relatable script, combined with profound direction and extraordinary performances, reminiscent of “All About Eve,” makes “Collected Stories” truly unforgettable and a must-see.