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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Collected Stories" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Collected Stories" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

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Manhattan Theatre Club
Collected Stories
(Collected Stories Website)

By Donald Margulies

Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer

Directed by Lynne Meadow

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street

Linda Lavin and Sarah Paulson

Scenic Design: Santo Loquasto
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Original Music & Sound Design: Obadiah Eaves
Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Production Stage Manager: Laurie Goldfeder
Casting: David Caparelliotis
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Production Manager: Kurt Gardner
Assoc. Artistic Director: Mandy Greenfield
Director of Artistic Development: Jerry Patch
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Development: Jill Turner Lloyd

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 30, 2010

We first meet Ruth Steiner in her lived-in, worn, bookish, West Village apartment in September 1990. Linda Lavin, as Ruth, a once-lauded storyteller, looks just as worn and weary as her abode, but with worldly thoughts as adventurous as those in her stacked shelves of books. She’s coarse and crude, reeking of frustration, as she greets her writing student, Lisa Morrison (Sarah Paulson), into her secluded nest of esoteric ideology. Lisa has asked for mentoring feedback, on her latest short story, and says she’s honored for Ruth’s time and attention. Ruth, who expected a dowdy, depressive type, was surprised at Lisa’s airy adoration. Donald Margulies’ Collected Stories, a two-act 1996 play, on the same stage that his Time Stands Still was recently seen, was, like his formerly reviewed play, filled with words and feelings, as the artist’s world collides with moral conflict and youthful competition.

Lisa harvests Ruth’s mind, like a beachcomber looking for the perfect shell, eventually gaining trust from her cautious mentor. Ruth, like Lisa, was once young, too, and Ruth’s long ago affair with Delmore Schwartz, a renowned Village poet, whom she met over drinks, unfolded onstage, turning this professorial caterpillar into a glowing butterfly, as she reminisced in joy. Lisa asked questions, and Ruth answered in detail. But, again, it was not the action of that savored affair that infused the stage with romance, but Ruth’s emotions, feelings that fired her belly and feminized her persona. For a moment, Ruth was young again, and Lisa was her Greek chorus, exuding attentive approval at every revelation. As the years pass, Lisa publishes short stories and receives awards, while Ruth’s jealousy and sinking self-worth are visibly palpable. Years pass by, and Lisa takes to the stage to read from a successful publication. The student has stolen her mentor’s hidden obsession and made it her own literary showcase. Ruth self-destructs before our very eyes.

With only two characters on this expansive, but furniture-filled, stage, the audience focused in on every gesture, every nuanced expression. Linda Lavin is a master of nuance, making Ruth’s class-consciousness, defensiveness, vulnerability, and searing angst embodied with visible articulation. Sarah Paulson, whose Lisa initiated a platonic relationship and forged a psychological coup d’état, was more opaque in presentation, with internalized motivation. At long last, bonds of poetry and publication could not outweigh the instincts of survival, and Ruth’s stature and strength crumbled at the curtain. Lynne Meadow directed this revival with acute attention to the symbolism of words and the affect of body language. She targeted the strengths of her talented duo. Santo Loquasto’s home office drew us right into Ruth’s 1990’s West Village flat, and Jane Greenwood’s costumes were indicative of the characters’ moods. Kudos to Donald Margulies and Manhattan Theatre Club.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at