If you are interested in a play about the relationship between two writers, look no further than the Group Rep’s production of Donald Margulies’ Collected Stories, running through Nov. 10 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in The NoHo Arts District.
This manifesto on the meaning of writing marks another high point, at least the second in a row, following Jon Robin Baitz’s The Paris Letter, for Group Rep artistic directors Chris Winfield and Larry Eisenberg.
They have certainly raised the bar on Burbank Boulevard from what was once almost community theatre to an artistic sensibility that touches mind and heart.
Certainly, the past season, beginning with A Trip To Bountiful by Horton Foote, has been an artistic watershed.
This intimate and deeply personal account of a graduate student who seeks encouragement and professional mentoring from a renowned short story writer is set in the 1990s.
The relationship, which goes beyond mentor/pupil to best friend and confidant, is both telling and moving. By the time the last scene comes, the audience is left wondering: “What is art and can the vision of it be blurred by differing points of view?"
Margulies’ writing is poetic and soulful and carries a resonant spine. It is rare for a male playwright to write a play about two women, but Margulies pulls it of beautifully.
Sherry Netherland’s direction adds a fierce edge which gives each character the motivation and permission to doggedly pursue their destinations while staying true to their inner core.
Julia Silverman (Ruth Steiner) is wonderfully realistic as the older, more famous writer. She gives a performance which leaves the audience hanging on every word and empathizing with every emotion. Truly, Silverman understands and feels comfortable in the skin of this character.
Liza de Weerd (Lisa Morrison) is equally graceful and courageous. For a young actress to give a portrayal of such wisdom, vulnerability and sensitivity is nothing less than mind bending. De Weerd, in all her presence, has a brilliant and wide-open future ahead of her.
Adding to the play are Winfield’s lavish set design, Emily Doyle’s costume design, Steve Shaw’s sound design and Kim Smith’s lighting design.
In the end, there is virtually no misstep in this creatively staged production of a quietly powerful play which proves once more that the Group Rep is a company on a definite ascendancy into what might be its most fertile period yet.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sunday Matinees at 2 p.m. (Talk-back Sunday, Oct. 21 after show).
The Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91601. Reservations: (818) 763-5990 Tickets: $22 Seniors/Students: $17 Groups: 10+: $15 Special: Ladies Night Fridays–Tickets half price for the ladies