Lisa Morrison (Natalie Sutherland) is the very picture of a naive young girl when we meet her, bubbling with enthusiasm over her first tutorial with her literary idol Ruth Steiner (April Lang). Throughout the play we watch as this relationship changes. We watch as Lisa grows, as she comes into her own as a writer, as she tries to define herself within the literary scene. The evolution of the relationship allows for the exploration of themes such as betrayal, love, partnership and intellectual propriety. It is an interesting evolution to delve into, a complex situation which Collected Stories depicts with considerable skill.
Sutherland's portrayal of Lisa is, in the beginning of the play, slightly problematic. Her performance, much like the character she was playing, seemed just a bit self-conscious and it was as if she couldn’t quite fully sink into the role of insecure valley-girl. However, as the play goes on the character matured to suit her and by the time Lisa has published her first story, Sutherland's performance is virtually faultless.
April Lang, on the other hand, perfectly captures the essence of the more experienced New York Jewish writer from start to finish. Yes, she may occasionally jumble a line, but who cares when her voice, her expression, her very carriage all embody the part to a tee.
What both women really excel at is conveying the relationship between author and student. Through their depictions we see the give and take of the relationship and its progression seems so natural and believable. This verisimilitude, the sweet as well as the awkward, the good as well as the bad, makes the later serious conflicts that emerge between them all the more poignant and thought-provoking. The evolution of a relationship between two people, especially when questions of success and moral dilemmas are involved, is one of the most compelling subjects around. It is fortunate this version of Collected Stories is a production which does justice to the theme.