Emotional Fireworks From “Collected Stories”
By Skip Sheffield
The premise of Palm Beach Dramaworks’ “Collected Stories” seemed rather thin. The two-character Donald Margulies play continues through March 5 at 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.
A veteran writer and teacher holds court with a younger woman who idolizes her. Ruth Steiner (Anne-Marie Cusson) is past her prime of creativity, and coaches younger writers such as Lisa Morrison (Keira Keeley) on the mechanics of creative writing. The high point of her career was a brief fling with the self-destructive poet, Delmore Schwartz. In the course of a little over two hours with intermission, these characters will in essence trade places. Lisa will publish a poem and later a novel to great acclaim. Ruth, in failing health, will charge Lisa of intellectual theft, although it is she who encouraged Lisa to spread her creative wings.
Nothing is off-limits in creative writing. Everything in a writer’s life is fair game. Sometimes the subjects are embarrassing, hurtful or humiliating. That two female characters can hold the viewer’s attention for more than two hours is a tribute to both the writer’s skill and the actresses’ expertise.
For someone who has made a career with words, “Collected Stories” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies is essential. To be truly creative and unique, a writer must be ruthless. Casualties will result. The emotional fireworks that ignite in Act Two, after a time period of six years, are a satisfying denouement to an unspoken rivalry. Guest director Paul Stancato has judiciously placed hipster 1950s-1960s jazz to enhance the mood. The actresses need no enhancement. They make it real. If you have a creative endeavor moldering in some drawer, this may be the very spark to do something with it. Life is short but art is long.
Tickets are $66. Call 561-514-4042 or go to www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.