“Collected Stories” at Midtown Theatre, a Must See For All

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By Minta Pavliscsak.

Midtown Productions, owner and operator of Midtown Theatre located at 2816 Azalea Drive, North Charleston has started 2016 off strong with a captivating show that will make you laugh, reminisce, and ultimately contemplate those all too important “life decisions” you made back in your college years.

“Collected Stories”, produced by Sheri Grace Wenger is winding down it’s production at Midtown Theatre. Written by Donald Margulies, “Collected Stories” first premiered at South Coast Repertory in California on April, 1996 and had a two month run on Broadway in 2010. It follows the dynamic relationship between a celebrated writer and her graduate student protégé over the course of six years in the 1990’s.

Angst, intimidation, pride, doubt and an insatiable need to be accepted are only a few of the emotions that leap off the stage from the only two stars sharing in the spotlight. The performance takes place in the Greenwich Village apartment of Ruth Steiner, a straightforward professor and mentor, played by two time winner of the Charleston’s “Best Actress” Samille Basler. Opposite her is exceedingly bubbly Lisa Morrison, played by Charleston newcomer Sarah Glendening. Seemingly incompatible at first, Ruth and Lisa develop a bond that far exceeds that of your typical professor/student rapport.

The pair develops an intimate mother daughter tie fueled by penetrating moments where life and school lessons are shared in a tapestry of complex exchanges. We watch them go from lightheartedly sharing afternoon tea to having a falling out over the thing that brought them together in the first place which establishes the main conflict of the play. The emotional separation begins to build momentum subtly around the same time that Lisa’s writing career flourishes.CS.Lisa@window1

The author scripts out a poignant moment in the play when Lisa gets her first review and she is overwhelmed with feelings of uncertainly and depression.  This mental tug of war between success and seeking refuge in a mentor is one so many in the academic circles must face.  Ruth, being true to her unapologetic ways, tells Lisa “There’s nothing worse than getting what you wanted.”

Set Designer Ryan Ahelert did an exceptional job with “Collected Stories”. We were easily transported back to the 1990’s in part to his careful attention to detail. We spend the entire play sharing in Ruth’s living room space. It’s comfortable here with her bookshelf filled with books of influence and interest, coat rack that has one too many coats hanging on it, and a messy desk piled up with folders and mail. Ruth and Lisa’s movements flowed seamlessly around the stage and nothing seemed to distract the audience from them.

Midtown Theatre is structured to offer an open cabaret style format.  Along with engaging theatrical performances, the theater offers wine, charcuterie and dessert plates.  Midtown Productions has been happily calling this place home for just over a year now, and they are excited for what their future here holds.

There are only three more opportunities to catch Samille Basler and Sarah Glendening in their starring roles as Ruth Steiner and Lisa Morrison this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You can purchase tickets here for the three remaining 8:00 shows. Make sure to keep Midtown Productions on your watch list. They have some great shows coming up for the rest of this season including an upcoming performance of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” beginning February 11.

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Photos courtesy of Nancy Santos.

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