Now that's acting!

Britt Kline isn't sure the actions of the woman she plays in the next production at the Columbus Civic Theater pass the sniff test.

"You're not supposed to judge your character, but she did something that I don't know how I feel about it," said Kline, a Clintonville resident.

Kline plays Lisa Morrison opposite Kerry Shanklin's Ruth Steiner in "Collected Stories," a two-person drama by Donald Margulies, an American playwright and professor of English at Yale University.

The play opens June 21 at Columbus Civic Theater, 3837 Indianola Ave., and runs through July 15.

Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $17.50 for students and senior citizens.

In the 1996 play, Steiner is a teacher and respected short-story writer. Morrison is a graduate student who becomes her protegee.

"It's two women, and you don't see that that often," said the troupe's founder and artistic director, Richard Albert, who is directing "Collected Stories."

During the course of their conversations, Steiner tells Morrison about an affair she had with poet Delmore Schwartz, whom Albert described as a troubled figure beset by mental-health problems for much of his life. Morrison appropriates her mentor's story as the plot for a novel, Albert said, setting up the basic question of the drama.

"Who owns that story: the one who lives it or the one who made art from it?" Albert said. "What is hers and what is art?"

Albert said Shanklin and Kline are acting superbly in rehearsals.

"There is virtually nothing I'm doing, and it's the greatest thing," he said.

"They're really good, the two of them."

Kline said she can't wait to hear the conversation among audience members leaving "Collected Stories" regarding how they feel about her character using the other woman's reminiscences for her novel.

Shanklin of Delaware said the play's final scene is a difficult one for the performers.

"It's rough," she said. "It's very intense. Ruth feels Lisa has stolen her stories. She feels betrayed by this younger woman she practically adopted. I love intellectual arguments, and there are several in here."

"It feels like it could be as easily done between two men as two women," Kline said. "It's really great to be in that academic setting."

"Collected Stories" is the beginning of an effort at Columbus Civic Theater to put on contemporary works with smaller casts than in the past, Albert said.

"Audience response is that they want more contemporary plays," he said. "I think it's time to make a move to that."

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