Review: Collected Stories

Originally reviewed for

Manhattan Theatre Club and Donald Margulies have a symbiotic relationship: the Freidman Theatre, MTC’s Broadway stage, played host earlier this spring to a fascinating Margulies premiere, Time Stands Still (which will be returning for a commercial run in the fall), and now a revival of his Collected Stories. Little wonder, in a way: His Sight Unseen was the first play to be an unqualified success in their Broadway theatre in 2004.

Collected Stories follows the relationship between successful New York author Ruth (Linda Lavin) and young student Lisa (Sarah Paulson) to whom she becomes a friend and mentor. The great majority of the play carefully examines the often fraught mentor/mentee relationship. Where Time Stands Still examines people slightly missing connections, Collected Stories spends more time exploring the joys and dangers that come with a deeply connected friendship.

Towards the end, their relationship deteriorates, and Margulies shifts his focus onto the ethics of appropriating people’s personal stories for the purpose of writing fiction. Was the first two-thirds of the play leading up to this all just set-up? Hardly: Margulies’s gift is filling his relatively simple plots with rich tapestries of people faced with moral and emotional ambiguity, and there’s plenty of that here.

Time Stands Still was filled with subtle and quiet moments. Collected Stories, while still very intimate, is more rambunctious, focusing as it does on the lives of driven and ambitious writers. Lavin, in particular, plays many colors, from gentle disciplinarian to conflicted supporter to wounded animal. If Lisa does in the end betray Ruth, Paulson plays it as though she has thought the act through very precisely. Paulson does wonderful work with what is innately the less interesting role.

This isn’t the best play of the season, or even the best Donald Margulies play of the season. It is, however, decidedly well written, directed (by Lynne Meadow) and acted, a rewarding if not revelatory night in the theatre.

For tickets, click here.

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