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Collected Stories - Theatre Review
By Bill Garry
Susan Fisher and Gretchen Goode
Photo by ShoWorks Entertainment
New York in the 1990s is tiny walk-up apartments with broken intercoms. Korean markets. High-brow programs at the 92nd Street Y. Woody, Mia and Soon-Yi. And writers both competing with, and kowtowing to, each other in order to get ahead.
Playwright Donald Margulies brings this world to life in his 1997 hit, "Collected Stories." That the show has a long history of success in both New York and Los Angeles makes perfect sense; both cities are writers' towns, and the topics engaged in the show -- expectations, fame, honor and betrayal -- are catnip for writers. This new production by ShoWorks Entertainment at the Complex Theater continues the success with Mr. Margulies' masterful writing performed by two compelling actresses.
Susan Fisher plays Ruth, a respected teacher and short story writer who cautiously lets a talented, yet immature, student into her professional and personal life. Ms. Fisher gives a carefully calibrated performance; as Ruth attempts to control her student, we begin to realize that it is Ruth's struggle to control herself that we are witnessing.
Gretchen Goode is Lisa, the insecure young woman who unconsciously barrels along, annoying and infuriating Ruth. Ms. Goode is the polar opposite of Ruth -- open and
helpful where Ruth is closed and self-contained. The play only spans six years, but Ms. Goode takes Lisa on an accelerated journey from wild thing to mature writer and, ultimately, caretaker.
Little by little, the two characters develop a bond of respect and friendship. It isn't easy, as both talk at each other and rarely listen. The exception: when Ruth shares her life as a young woman when she threw herself into the literary scene (and the bed of a famous poet).
The plot then turns. Lisa gets published, Ruth turns frail and dependency switches. Lisa's attempt to pay tribute to Ruth backfires. The lesson: the rules of writing don't always work in real life.
Christine Dunford's direction -- and the tiny Dorie Theater -- makes us feel like we are eavesdropping on Ruth and Lisa's intimate conversations. Design is simple, supportive, and authentic, allowing the actors, and the audience, to fall in love with the literary life as New Yorkers and Los Angelenos do.
plays through November 5 at Dorie Theater.
November 03, 2017 09:50 am
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