Collected Stories, directed by Lois Evans, is currently in production at Dignity Players in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis. The original script by Donald Margulies, Collected Stories follows a six year relationship between Ruth Steiner (Carol Cohen), a professor and respected short story writer and Lisa Morrison (Sarah Wade), her student and protégée.
The show opens with these two women meeting in Ruth’s New York City apartment. Wade plays Lisa with stars in her eyes when she meets her writing idol. She giggles, scrunches her shoulders, and even rocks on her toes once or twice as she begins her in-depth inquisition of Ruth.
Cohen is a force to be reckoned as Ruth’s words are drizzled with quick quips, exacting tones, and yet a certain logic as she tries to understand her young and naïve protégée. The generational differences are apparent not only physically but intellectually and emotionally as well. Ruth is an aging woman with chutzpah and that is what is likable about her. She’s spunky with her truths, yet comes across as everyone’s grandmother. As Ruth shares her triumphs, failures, and heart-ache she remains a dynamic woman.
A very powerful and passionate production, you’ll leave the theatre wanting more.
Wade is a star in the making. Her transformation of Lisa is an obvious one and that works for this character. Her giddy school-girl charm is replaced with a bit of arrogance as her first short story is published in a publication that was not even suggested by Ruth. Lisa plays off the delay in telling Ruth of her success and yet she gets pretty self-absorbed in her literary accomplishment. So much so, that Ruth has to wrangle it out of her what she thought of her “Birthday Cake” story. Ironically, though Ruth’s short story is about a mother and daughter and the birthday cakes they make, it is easily relatable and symmetrical to Ruth and Lisa’s relationship and where it’s headed. Thus, their discussion of Ruth’s latest work brings about their spiraling change.
As time moves forward, both Cohen and Wade continue their character’s transitions. Lisa grows in maturity and confidence as she becomes a successful writer; meanwhile Ruth faces her own mortality. Physically, Lisa let’s her hair down (literally) then eventually fashions a more professional look, whereas Ruth has taken to over-sized pajamas and an unkempt hair-do.
Lisa’s writing success continues after her well-received short stories collection is published, followed by her novel – based on Ruth’s love affair with poet Delmore Schwartz. What a moral dilemma and conflict between these two women that brings about the question – is a person’s life events suitable for another to use in their own creative process? To get the answer to that question and many others, Collected Stories is a must see. A very powerful and passionate production, you’ll leave the theatre wanting more.
The set designed by Laurie Nolan captures the artistic side of a New York writer. The action takes place in Ruth’s living room that is fashioned with a love seat, a chair and coffee table plus Ruth’s writing desk and a dinette table. There is a smattering of abstract art pieces and the room screens and sofa are draped with a variety of tapestries in brilliant colors. Both Cohen and Wade make good use of the space along with magazine, newspapers, and tea sets for props. They both make themselves right at home, inviting the audience into their multi-faceted relationship.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with a 10-minute intermission.
Collected Stories runs through February 1, 2014 at Dignity Players, The Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis
333 Dubois Road, Annapolis, MD 21041. For tickets, click here.