Collected Stories: The Property of Intellect

l. to r. Liz Hayes as Lisa and Bobbie Steinbach as Ruth in Collected Stories. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.

Collected Stories by Donald Margulies, New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 10/9/11-10/30/11.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Watertown, MA) Storytelling began as a way to pass on history and myths of a culture. In fact, some of the earliest stories were only credited when they were written down (for example, Homer with The Illiad and The Odyssey). Nowadays, even ideas are called into question. Birds can no longer Tweet ® and can only chirp due to Twitter receiving the trademark for the word “tweet”. Where do we draw the line? Are we the sum of our thoughts? Who owns the rights to what we learn and what influences us? New Rep’s production of Collected Stories examines these issues.

Ruth Steiner (Bobbie Steinbach) and Lisa Morrison (Liz Hayes) have a mentor-student relationship that spans several years. Liz Hayes gives Lisa the innocence and insecurity of a new writer desperately wanting approval from the writer she admires. Lisa Morrison arrives completely receptive and pliable to whatever Ruth suggests. However, through arguments and achievements, Lisa becomes more comfortable with her own voice. From scene to scene, Hayes keeps the core innocence but also displays growth in confidence and independence. By the end, Lisa Morrison has become a successful writer because of her relationship with Ruth.

Bobbie Steinbach plays the cantankerous Ruth Steiner. Steinbach provides the austerity and grit for the seasoned professor/author. Without any blatant actions, Steinbach unmasks her character’s weakness and insecurity. Ruth pretends to not like her pupil’s fawning, but in fact thrives on it. With her guidance, Lisa becomes a strong, independent author; however, this loss of control leaves Ruth indignant that her student seems to no longer need her and has appropriated Ruth’s influence.

Collected Stories is an interesting study on relationships with no easy answers or moral. Bobbie Steinbach and Liz Hayes both evoke sympathies for their characters; most likely the audience will side with the character they are closest with. New Repertory Theatre provides for a night of deep contemplation of identity and influence.

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