Did ambitious fiction writer Lisa Morrison (played by Sarah Paulson) betray a friendship when she based her debut novel on an intimate chapter in the life of her mentor, the short story writer Ruth Steiner (played by Linda Lavin)? And, furthermore, did she steal intellectual property? Was Ruth inviting her to plunder the material? Who owns a story? Heck — is Lisa's novel any good?
Like most good dramas, Collected Stories, produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, which gave the play its New York City debut Off-Broadway in 1997, asks more questions than it answers. It leaves the audience to ponder the human experience.
"No, I don't weigh in on this," Margulies said recently. "It's really up to audiences to discuss and debate."
MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow directs the play, which, Margulies has said in interviews, he trimmed and tightened for this revival. He's a different playwright today, he said.
Collected Stories began previews April 9 and plays a limited engagement. "I just love the way Donald Margulies writes," Lavin told Playbill magazine earlier this spring. "He writes wonderful women. When he writes, he writes with such passion. He writes poetically, but he also writes pragmatically. His dialogue is very realistic, very emotional and very educated."
Collected Stories is inspired by a real story in which a man brought a case of plagiarism against a student. Lavin said, "What it inspired Donald to do was to look at the life of a writer and examine what happens when you, if you're not a trusting person, finally do trust someone with your story, and they go off and write your story as their first novel. If they take elements of your story and disguise it, it's still your story and not theirs. What he's looking at is, 'Whose life is it anyway?' How much are you allowed to take someone else's story and take liberties and say it's your story? My experience is that the audience is split down the middle."
Following the 1997 MTC run, which starred the Ruth of Maria Tucci and the Lisa of Debra Messing (under the direction of Lisa Peterson), the play had a separate commercial Off-Broadway run that starred Uta Hagen as Ruth, and Lorca Simons as Lisa (under the direction of William Carden).
|photo by Joan Marcus|
A later TV version of the property starred Lavin, famous for TV's "Alice," Broadway's Broadway Bound, Gypsy and MTC's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, directed by Meadow. Margulies is the author of the Pulitzer-winning Dinner With Friends, plus Brooklyn Boy, Sight Unseen, Time Stands Still (the previous tenant at the Friedman) and more.
Paulson was seen in the film "The Spirit." In early 2009, she starred in TV's "Cupid." Paulson was nominated for the Golden Globe for her work in TV's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." She also appeared on TV's "Leap of Faith," "Deadwood," "Path to War" and "Jack and Jill." On stage, Paulson appeared in Alexander Dinelaris' Still Life at the MCC Theatre; Mark Schultz' The Gingerbread House at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre; the Roundabout Theatre production of Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart directed by Kathleen Turner; and Broadway's The Glass Menagerie, alongside Jessica Lange. The Collected Stories design team includes Santo Loquasto (scenic design), Jane Greenwood (costume design), Natasha Katz (lighting design), and Obadiah Eaves (sound design).
Single tickets for Collected Stories are available via www.Telecharge.com, by telephone at (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250 and at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre box office (261 West 47th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue).
For more information on MTC, visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.