COLLECTED STORIES (Act II): Friendship in the real world

collected-stories-ambler-reviewAs we enter the season of unpredictable weather, go to Act II to get their take on the warm and fuzzies mixed with the cold shoulder. COLLECTED STORIES is a realistic, humorous, but emotional story of two women—one mentor, one mentee—but most of all, two people that come together and have a profound effect on each other’s lives.

In Greenwich Village in the early 90s, Lisa Morrison (Sarah Paton) is an aspiring writer who suffers from severe self-doubt and neediness as she recovers from her youth, riddled with abandonment and bulimia. She has a story. So does renowned writer Ruth Steiner (Susan Riley Stevens). Ruth is a well-known, respected authoress with a history of breaking barriers and bending the rules. She never had time for a family or children but made her mark in the literary world. She is now devoted to teaching the next generation the joys of the written word. She meets her student Lisa, a devout follower of her work who is eager to learn all she can from her idol. This combination fuels a story of how two unlikely people can learn from each and find a friendship that transcends the everyday.

Fast forward many years. Ruth finds herself revealing her biggest secrets (especially her foray with brooding poet Delmore Schwartz) to her student who becomes like a daughter to her. Lisa has continued to write, improve, and learn from Ruth but is much more confident. She has the world in her hands but still depends on Ruth’s approval. Ruth begins to face the memories of her past and her own mortality and finds herself growing increasingly envious of the wide-eyed, promising youth she has mentored. When both of the women realize the reality of their lives, their relationship becomes strained. We see the envy of an amazing life and the envy of one in the making. This is the tale of how life and the world can possibly get in the way of our most important relationships.

Director Jessica Bedford weaves Donald Margulies’ story into a realistic scenario we all can identify with. The amazing set (Meghan Jones) coupled with the intimate theater made the audience almost feel as if they were awkwardly invading the privacy of a mother and daughter in a strong-minded argument. As we peeked into their lives we laughed, we cried, and got pissed at what we were observing. This show was poignant and thought provoking. I guarantee no one will leave the theater without gaining a grain of sympathy and taking a deep moment to take a look at themselves and others in a whole new light. 

[Act II, Ambler, PA]. October 28–November 18, 2018act2.org

 

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About the author

Lauren Hartranft

Lauren Hartranft grew up engrossed in books, theater, and music. She daylights as a behavior consultant, which she believes helps her perceive daily life, personalities, and theater in a unique way. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie and borderline hippie who likes to garden, make her own wine, and absorb as much culture from the world around her as possible. Lauren can be reached via email at lhartranft@verizon.net.