- A successful writer mentoring a student who has similar
aspirations - that’s the premise of Donald Margulies’
“Collected Stories,” playing at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.
characters are well developed, evolving
over the six-year period which the story covers, and
the roles of Ruth Steiner and Lisa Morrison are handled with
artistry by Sarah Day and Laura Frye.
all the parts I’ve seen Sarah Day play over the years, this
is her crowning glory in my book. She totally inhabits this
feisty woman. Perfecto.
Steiner is a complex, talented woman who defines herself by
her success in writing short stories. She extends her talent
by teaching aspiring writers, usually favoring one or two
exceptional students per session.
the story’s entrance in 1990, she has invited Lisa Morrison
to be the recipient of her special attentions. Lisa is beyond
grateful and spends the next several years practicing what her
mentor suggests. She also serves as her assistant for a time,
going out of her way trying to please the hard-to-please,
somewhat volatile Miss Steiner.
Lisa begins to achieve some success, their relationship subtly
begins to change, not necessarily for the better. Lisa soon
discovers the added pressure, the inevitable expectations that
come with success. The whole tricky issue of what is fair game
to write about is discussed between them, and the moral
question of what an author is permitted to include in his or
her writings that might impact the privacy of other people in
their lives is explored.
it wise to write about one’s own experiences or do those
personal revelations possibly jeopardize some of the
relationships in a writer’s life? This tangled topic is
provocatively handled in the insightful script.
of the scenes except one take place in Steiner’s cozy upper
apartment, nicely designed by Stephen Hudson-Mairet. The play
opens on a humorous note as Miss Steiner throws a key out the
window to her eager student, shouting down instructions for
her ascent. Lisa’s first act of gratitude is to close her
teacher’s stuck window with a spatula. The fledging
writer’s uncomfortability is very apparent when she first
faces her idol. One
already can feel the tenuousness and possible future tension
between them. There is a crustiness about Ruth, and an
unchecked ebullience about Lisa.
relationship changes over time from a mere teacher-student
relationship to one of friends, peers and even rivals. The
final scene when Lisa returns to visit Ruth after giving a
lecture about her soon-to-be-published first novel sizzles
with a rush of repressed emotion, and the triumph of Lisa’s
success is reduced to confusion and shame. The audience is
is the third Margulies play produced by Milwaukee Chamber
Theatre. “Dinner with Friends” and “Brooklyn Boy” were
both powerful, as well. It is a thrill to encounter another of
his gritty works.
by Michael Wright, “Collected Stories” runs through Dec.
16. Call 414-291-7800 or visit www.milwaukeechambertheatre.com
for show times and tickets.