Teaching Your Student Too Well
Lawrance Bernabo, Duluth News Tribune
September 6, 2013
“The basis of the story is inconsequential, as long as it is a good story” proclaims Ruth Steiner in her first tutorial with Lisa Morrison, the young student who will in turn become her assistant and then her protege. Collected Stories, the two-woman play that opened at The Underground on Thursday night, is indeed a good story, especially when director Kelly K. Mullan is able to put it in the hands of two of the best actresses in Duluth.
Julia Ahasay and Sarah Ruth Diener play the teacher and student who become much more during a series of scenes separated by months and then years as the story progresses. Written by Donald Margulies, this 1996 play was, most deservedly, a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Irony is the master trope of the universe, and irony abounds throughout the first act of Collected Stories. I was reminded of Oedipus Rex, because I was acutely aware that many of the best lines coming out of Ruth’s mouth were going to come back to haunt her after intermission. It was fascinating to watch this tragedy unwind, almost cringing when Ruth would say things like, if “feelings get hurt, you go ahead and hurt them,” because all that matters is the writing.
In fact, the biggest irony is that the only lesson Lisa does not take to heart from everything her mentor tries to teacher her, is Ruth’s final declaration of the first act, which foreshadows the play’s final tragic turn: “Some things you don’t touch.”
Is Lisa’s success because she is just that good or because she has indeed learned something from Ruth? Or could it be that she is a postmodern Eve Harrington, acting more from an implicit sense of entitlement rather than any conscious attempt at devious manipulation? All things considered, in the final analysis I go with the first option.
As Ruth, Julie Ahasay mixes caustic comments and profound pronouncements with deft asides, tossed off lines and little squawks of laughter. In the final scene, I think there can be more of a sense that things are now decidedly different before the sharp turn to the climactic confrontation between the two women.
Diener’s Lisa has the greater character arc, turning from a fawning and star-struck student into a woman who may well have surpassed her mentor. As Lisa’s wardrobe become more adult, Diener alters the way her character speaks and acts accordingly, so that she can truly hold her own in the final scene.
The Underground stage is deeper, but not as wide as that of the Play Ground, with the stadium seating providing a heightened sense of perspective. Not exactly a black-box theater, with its two-story ceiling and opened arches on the second level, this is a space wherein voices get swallowed up from time to time.
At one point Lisa tells her mentor, “You taught me to be ruthless.” Well, do not worry, Lisa. At the end of it all, that is exactly what you are.
I do believe that the play "Collected Stories" was worth seeing because it had a deeping meaning behind all of it, but I with my own personal preference, I enjoy watching mucials more. I thought that it was so great that Ruth taught Lisa how to be a women, but Lisa also grew even more as a person on her own. She learned the good and the bad from a women that she looked up to. I know that every person that has come into my life has affected me one way or another, and I feel that this same thing happened for Lisa. Ruth appeared in Lisa's life during a crucial time while she was a student and she was still learning and growing as a person.
I do not think that this story affected me personally. It was was easy to keep track on what was going on, but I did not really care for the story line. I thought that Ruth and Lisa did a good job with their acting, but I did not feel that it was real. I remember seeing the show Evita in the underground and I felt the same way during this play, except I believe that in "Collected Stories" was a lot better in acting the part with their emotions.
Watching musicals and plays has always been apart of my life every since I was a young child. There have been quite a few shows that have given me an emotional affect but it also depends on my mood and if I am engaged with the play. I do not think that I was very engaged with the play. I enoyed watching it, but it was hard to get very engaged and into the show. I like when life is about singing and dancing like musicals. When life is a song it is easier for me to remember what happened in the story and also what is going on. But when I watch a play, I forget what just happened and what just occured in the story line. The one thing that I do not like about plays is they are not always realistic to what happens in life, but I do think that "Collected Stories" did a good job in keeping it realistic. It was very real and it was something that could happen to an actual student one day. I beleive that people naturally look up to people and Lisa looked up to Ruth. She thought that Ruth was an amazing person and then as time went on she learned more about Ruth and liked her for the good and bad. That is what life should be about when it comes to people, people should learn to like one another for the good and bad and try to seek out the good in people before throwing them out of their life and Lisa did a great job with that.
I would recommend this play to anyone who is interesting in watching plays, but before I saw the play I did not realize it would only be two people the entire time.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on September 6, 2013 11:12 AM.
Coriolana - UMD Theatre was the previous entry in this blog.
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