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The arcing eyebrow is a frequent gesture for Ruth Steiner, the smart, skeptical central figure in Mr.


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Ruth burst onto the literary scene with a book of short stories that earned her instant fame in her early 20s. The fame faded, and Ruth has since become a respected but little-celebrated member of the establishment, teaching writing to the young and the ambitious in New York City. Moderate success has earned her a cozy, book-lined perch in the West Village. But her dedication to the art of fiction, and the nurturing of other writers, has been the focus of her life. She never married and never had children. The perch is also a bit of a fortress. Lavin evinces with every sardonic inflection and studied pause the cool distance with which Ruth observes the world, beginning with her students and their fledgling attempts at displaying their literary plumage.

As Ruth reflects on the past, Ms. The voice, normally tinged with complaint or suspicion, softens and slows into an almost hypnotic purr; the eyes gleam with youthful excitement and vivid pain as she recalls the highs and lows. Lavin invests the words with a piercing truth. Among the best jokes is a gag about The New Yorker magazine. She could profitably blend in a few more suggestions of the canny operator beneath the surface ingenuousness, however, particularly in the second act. Although the roles are roughly equal, the balance of sympathy will always favor Ruth, who dominates the play with her bone-dry humor and aggrieved dignity.

Lavin, who has played the role twice onstage and has also filmed it for PBS, knows this woman down to her fingertips.

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That's evening's performance will mark the production's th performance. The production is a somewhat unusual one because Margulies' play received its New York premiere only last year at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Collected Stories concerns an aging writer who is befriended and betrayed by her young protege; the drama delves into issues of mentoring and plagiarism. The play was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Hagen became interested in the work after appearing in the play this past spring at HB Studios, the Manhattan acting school where she has taught since That show was directed by William Carden and co-starred Lorca Simons, both of whom repeat their roles at the Lortel.


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  8. Klein , also at the Lortel. Simons' credits include a year with the national tour of Three Tall Women. Blocking belongs on the stage, not on websites.

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