In this powerful production of Donald Margulies' two-person play, the protagonist mistakes her student's geniality and hero worship for friendliness, when it's really just calculation and competitiveness. Acclaimed author and creative-writing professor Ruth (April Lang) tutors promising grad student Lisa (Natalie Sunderland), who arrives wide-eyed with adoration. A friendship develops between the pair and Lisa gets herself hired as Ruth's assistant, while also pumping the elder author's brains for insight and mentorship. Before long, Lisa's first novel is ready to come out — and the plot bears some disturbing similarities to Ruth's life. Director Terri Hanauer's production unfolds at a leisurely pace, but that doesn't mean the sequences aren't fraught with genuine urgency and a sense of intense emotional need. Margulies' smart writing is rich with subtext, but in addition to the obvious All About Eve parallels, the piece's fascinating arguments about the nature of artistic inspiration and artistic ethics also resonate strongly. The acting work is compelling, and it's fascinating to watch how these two characters evolve and switch places in terms of vulnerability and power. Lang and Sunderland's onstage relationship starts out almost like mother and daughter — but when Lisa's career takes off and Ruth is left behind, it gradually morphs into something darker and more disturbing. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Oct. 14. (310) 477-2055,

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Sept. 6. Continues through Oct. 14, 2012

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