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Don't reorganize my life!It's very complicated...
Linda Lavin as Ruth Steiner

Scene 27:  Don't reorganize my life!
Ruth is upset with Lisa for rearranging her desk.

Donald Margulies DONALD MARGULIES: The scene is in a sense a foreshadowing of the climax of the play. Lisa has taken it upon herself to reorganize aspects of Ruth's space and the fact that Ruth is affronted by this gives us a certain foreshadowing of her feelings of her sense of order and her defensiveness about Lisa's appropriation of certain responsibilities. It's a scene about territory that has been violated, not in a malicious way but in a wishful good-natured way. Lisa is so motivated by seeking Ruth's approval that Ruth's displeasure is the source of utter mortification.

 

Gil Cates GIL CATES: That's a wonderful scene because it's a fulcrum of the new and the old. It's what happens when a person my age is faced with new technology. How to deal with it? Do you adapt to it or not? Lisa is astonished that Ruth doesn't have an answering machine, but Ruth doesn't see the need. Her parents are dead, she has no children, if someone calls and she's not in, they'll call back. So the scene at the desk is the key to establishing what will ultimately be the substantial conflict between them.

 

Linda Lavin LINDA LAVIN: Invasion of privacy is endemic to the piece. Ultimately the invasion of Ruth's privacy is much more profound and blatant than the original one of fixing up the desk. If you've ever lived alone -- and I have -- you've given lots of attention to your things, your space, even if they look horrible to someone else. Metaphorically, to have somebody rearrange your stuff is a judgment on how you do things.

 

Linda Lavin SAMANTHA MATHIS: That scene is a perfect example of when Lisa crossed Ruth's boundaries. She's only trying to do right by her, to help her organize her life because it's such a mess -- she has the best intentions. Ruth's reaction is so harsh; she simply doesn't want anyone in her space. Lisa only wants to please her -- she's like a puppy dog that just wants to be loved and petted. And so it hurts her deeply when Ruth yells at her as she does in that scene.

[ Go to Scene 36 ]

 
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Ruth begins to stack some letters on her desk, but, disoriented by its lack of clutter, stops.

Ruth: What happened to the pile that was here?

Lisa: Oh, I straightened up.

Ruth: Why the hell did you do that?!

Lisa: (becoming rattled) Remember?, before you left?, I asked if you'd like me to straighten up?

Ruth: Straighten up, yes. Reorganize my life, no; I did not authorize you to reorganize my life.


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