LEWISTON – “Collected Stories” is a thought-provoking play opening next week at The Public Theatre.

From the pen of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Donald Margulies, “Collected Stories” is about a famous writer and her adoring protégé. The plot has elements much like the classic 1950 film “All About Eve” starring Bette Davis.

“It’s very funny. It’s very smart and it can get pretty intense, too,” said Christopher Schario, TPT artistic director who also directs this production.

Today’s world of confessional journalism and literature has blurred the boundaries of what is public and what is private. This play examines some complicated issues of the right to privacy and the right to keep a secret.

Under the wing of her impressive mentor, an ambitious young student progresses quickly to colleague, then confidante and ultimately to rival.

Following the rise and fall of friendship between these two fascinating women, “Collected Stories” presents the teacher/student relationship at its deepest level and explores what happens when a student surpasses her mentor.

Ruth and Lisa, the women in this two-character play, are like oil and water, Schario said.

The story builds to a dramatic confrontation in the final scene that brings all of the previous scenes into sharp focus.

“Most people understand what it’s like to be in an intense student/teacher relationship, or a child/parent dynamic,” Schario said. “‘Collected Stories'” is not just a play about writers or the vulnerability creative people experience, but it is also a play about how we pass along traditions and fulfill our need for family.”

Playing the roles of Ruth and Lisa at TPT will be New York actresses Deborah Jean Templin and Emma O’Donnell.

Schario said this is Templin’s first appearance in a TPT production. Her extensive theater credits include the national tours of “Mamma Mia!,” “Titanic,” “Baby” and “Annie.” She is also the recipient of Philadelphia’s coveted Barrymore Award for acting.

O’Donnell has appeared in New York and regional theater, including productions at The Guthrie and Walnut St. Theatre, and has originated the role of Beezus for Theater Works U.S.A.’s national tour of “Ramona Quimby.”

Over the years, the role of Ruth, the famous writer, has attracted an impressive list of actresses, including Uta Hagen in the New York production, Lynn Redgrave in a Washington production and Linda Lavin in the film version for PBS.

The role of Lisa, the promising protégé, was originally played off-Broadway by film actress and television star Deborah Messing.

Creating the Greenwich Village apartment where the play takes place is set designer Dan Bilodeau. Bart Garvey designed the lighting and Kate Law designed the costumes.

Donald Margulies also wrote “Dinner With Friends,” which TPT produced several years ago.

Schario said “Collected Stories” is a play that he and Janet Mitchko, associate artistic director, have wanted to fit into the TPT schedule for a long time.

“It’s really good theater,” Schario said, adding that it will be appreciated by anyone who deals with creative work.

The winter entry on TPT’s schedule is usually a drama, and the next production usually takes a lighter turn. This year, “The 13th of Paris,” a comic lesson in love, will be presented in March.

Although some theater-goers like comedy and others favor the deeper offerings, Schario said he has found that TPT audiences include many who attend every performance the theater stages.

Go and do

WHAT: “Collected Stories”

WHEN: Jan. 23, 24 and 25; Jan. 29, 30 and 31; and Feb 1. Shows are at 7 p.m. Thursday, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: The Public Theatre at Maple and Lisbon streets, Lewiston

TICKETS: $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and students; $14 group rate. Call 782-3200.

MORE INFO: www.thepublictheatre.org

NOTE: A free post-show discussion featuring the cast and director will follow the Jan. 25 matinee.

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