REVIEW by Willard Manus

Thanks to the praiseworthy acting of Dorothy Sinclair and Stacey Stone, Theatre 40 can be proud of its production of Donald Margulies' COLLECTED STORIES. The play, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize when it was first produced approximately ten years ago, is a two-hander about the struggle for power between Ruth Steiner (Sinclair), an elderly but still feisty New York novelist, and Lisa Morrison (Stone), her young protegee.

Margulies looks at all sides of their complex relationship, which keeps changing and deepening over the course of things. Sinclair is not only mentor but mother to the girl, who has come to her out of admiration for her work and for guidance as a wannabee writer. The clash of opposites--Ruth is Jewish, worldly-wise and cynical; Lisa is gentile, unformed, optimistic--makes for much humor and warmth at first. But then Lisa, under Ruth's tutelage, begins to grow as a writer and challenge the other's literary eminence. Not only that, she begins to write about Ruth, inspired by the things she has told her about her life.

When Lisa is hailed by the literary world and achieves a measure of fame, Ruth reacts badly, accusing Lisa of having stolen not just her material but her life. Lisa defends herself by reminding Ruth that she was just doing what Ruth had always urged her to do: write what was most important, and closest, to her, without qualms or fears.

The moral and ideological battle between these two vocal, driven women is delivered with consummate acting skills by Sinclair and Stone. They keep deepening their characterizations, finding new things about Ruth and Lisa, probing their contradictions and weaknesses without ever letting them become villains. It is a bravura performance by both actresses.

COLLECTED STORIES has also been ably directed by Joel Asher, a wellknown Hollywood acting coach. Theatre 40 is located at 241 Moreno Drive in Beverly Hills. Call (310) 364-0535.