Theater: Collected Stories at The Group Rep through Nov. 10
November 1, 2012 - By Annemarie Donkin
PHOTO BY SHERRY NETHERLAND
The acclaimed New York writer Ruth Steiner (Julia Silverman) and her grad student Lisa Morrison (Liza de Weerd) battle emotionally and creatively in "Collected Stories" at the Group Rep Theatre in North Hollywood.
With sharp and funny dialogue, Collected Stories directed by Sherry Netherland is a tender and funny view into the privileged and insular world of the New York writing life.
Donald Margulies, a Pulitzer winner for the 2000 Broadway production of Dinner With Friends, was nominated for the same prestigious prize for this 1997 two-character drama that tracks the relationship between a young writer, Lisa, and her mentor, Ruth, a critically-acclaimed author.
The play opens when Lisa Morrison (beautifully played by Liza de Weerd) visits her grad school professor in the Village to receive tutoring on her short story, Eating Between Meals.
Evoking a young and panicky Helen Hunt, the gangly Lisa, seemingly made only of long arms and legs, clumsily meets her intimidating mentor for the first time.
More bemused than upset, Ruth Steiner, the acclaimed short story writer (played to perfection by Julia Silverman, in a career-making role) regards her awkward student with patience. Ruth has seen a thousand eager students just like her during her long career.
In fact, based on the theme of Lisas first story, Ruth had a completely different student in mind, one that might have seemed more serious.
Yet to Ruth, this hapless grad student appears to be different, more enthusiastic and more determined to make it into the rarified literary stratosphere.
Indeed, after a terrific dialogue on the essence of writing, Ruth actually agrees to allow Lisa to become her new assistant.
Soon Lisa gets her first collection of short stories published and glows from her triumph. But the question of the authenticity of Lisas work remains a constant theme throughout the play.
Soon, Ruth grows tired of life and regales Lisa with tales of her incredible life of Bohemian decadence hanging out with artists and poets in New York in the 50s. They are stories Ruth has never written and seemingly, has no intention of ever writing.
Years later, Lisa scales the high-wire world of New York books with a novel based on Ruths privileged stories and the question becomes, whose stories are they anyway?
The joy of this play is the insightful dialogue played perfectly by these two fabulous and talented performers, which is a pleasure to watch from the happy beginning to its bone-chilling end.
The Group Rep presents Collected Stories by Donald Margulies, directed by Sherry Netherland, and produced by Alex Parker, through Nov. 10. Plays Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday Matinee at 2 p.m.
Reservation and information: www.thegrouprep.com or (818) 763-5990. Tickets: $22, Seniors/Students: $17 Groups 10+: $15, Special: Ladies Night Fridays Tix half-price for the ladies.
The Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood 91601 Parking: Ample street parking.