Great play/great acting at 2nd Story Theatre
These two brilliant actors mesmerize the audience.by Don Fowler, Cranston Herald
When Ed Shea opened a small, downstairs theatre at 2nd Story, I wondered how he could find an audience and enough quality plays to sustain two theatres in Warren.
Surprise! There are more than enough great actors and great plays, from the hilarious, held-over “Sylvia” to the current “Collected Stories,” brilliantly written by Donald Margulies and directed by Mark Peckham.
Shea recruited his executive director, Lynne Collinson, got her out of the office and on to the stage and then brought back a “grown up” Gabby Sherba to play two incredible roles in this funny, poignant, thought-provoking gem of a play.
Collinson plays Ruth Steiner, an aging, successful Jewish writer who tutors her brighter students, looking for that rare one with real talent. Sherba plays Lisa Morrison, the young, ambitious graduate student whom Ruth is convinced has that talent.
The two-hour play breaks down into six tightly written and directed scenes, beginning with Lisa’s spirited arrival to Ruth’s third floor apartment in 1990 and ending with her tense departure from that same apartment six years later.
We watch a close relationship develop between teacher and student, one that becomes strained when student borrows personal stories from teacher for her first novel.
Not a word or phrase is wasted in this tightly written, exquisitely performed play, set in a cozy apartment created by brilliant set designer Trevor Elliott.
After years of mentoring results in the successful publishing of “collected stories” by Lisa, following Ruth’s advice to “write about what you know,” the relationship is strained when she borrows (steals) Ruth’s very personal stories without confiding in her.
Did Lisa cross the line? Should Ruth feel honored or betrayed? The author leaves it for you to decide.
There are many questions about relationships and so many references to the creative process and the role of a mentor, all packed into two hours of fabulous theatre.
Both characters will draw on your empathy, while you may end up siding with one a bit more.
It takes the talent of these two brilliant actors, a veteran and a young lady coming into her prime, both in reality and in the parts they play, to mesmerize the audience. And they certainly do.
Don’t fall victim to the “all the way to Warren” line of thought. It’s a short 20-minute ride from Edgewood and maybe a half hour from Warwick. You’ll need that much time on the way home to discuss the play.