Collected Stories by Donald Margulies – Broadway Theater Review
SO MANY PEOPLE YOU CAN CHECK UP ON AND ADD TO YOUR COLLECTION
by Cindy Pierre
published May 5, 2010
now playing on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
Envy or admiration, two emotions apropos to understanding Donald Margulies'
Collected Stories, are the first things you experience when you enter the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Santo Loquasto's set, an apartment befitting a worldly scholar, evokes these feelings with books in nearly
every nook and cranny and tasteful paintings that appear to be treasures from sabbatical trips and adventures.
Even before meeting Ruth Steiner (Linda Lavin), the prolific author, loner and professor that inhabits this space,
we understand that she has much knowledge to dispense. Therefore, when Lisa (Sarah Paulson), a
student as inquisitive and as blonde as Nancy Drew, shows up for a tutorial and picks up every dropping, we empathize with her awe even if
we don't agree with her methods. It is this wonderful, philosophical tension and the brilliant
performance of the cast that makes Collected Stories an engrossing production.
With a healthy mixture of light and dark moments, Collected Stories takes you on a journey
of self-discovery even as the characters are on their own journeys. In six years, the precious
relationship between teacher and student progresses into the layered relationship of a mother and daughter. Director Lynne Meadow creates professional respect and maternal love onstage as easily as distance and
discomfort. Everything is great until Lisa takes all that she has learned from Ruth and creates
her first novel from a sacred time in Ruth's past. Once evolved from a self-righteous achiever
to a warm nurturer, Ruth turns into a betrayed artist seeking revenge. Suddenly the shepherd is
left without a charge, even if the sheep may still be lost.
If Act One is about creating symbiotic ties, Act Two, though cyclical at times, is about full-frontal
discord. Lisa's strategy is not cunning enough to be Machiavellian, but her approach, going
from earnestly seeking Ruth's approval to making important choices without it, is an awful, slow burn. Morally, you may side with one character at first, but the deftness and persuasiveness of Margulies'
writing may change your mind. Should art be seized at any time or place, regardless of the
source? Maybe, maybe not. But Collected
Stories, like any great drama, makes the decision a perplexing one.
cindypierre @ stageandcinema.com
photos by Joan Marcus