In 1965, William Wyler directed The Collector (based on a novel by John Fowles) starring Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar. The unforgettable film is the story of a socially retarded young man with sociopathic tendencies who works as a civil servant and collects beautiful butterflies whose wings are pinned on a display board. Recently winning an English football pool, he now has a lot of money and buys a secluded house in the countryside. However, his new fortune does not make him happy as he has been obsessing over a lovely young art student whom he eventually decides to kidnap and keep for his own viewing pleasure.
The adapted stage version by Mark Healy and directed by Edward Edwards is currently at the Ruskin Group Theatre and packs the kind of wallop that keeps your heart pounding until the end. Dane Zinter as Frederick Clegg gives a riveting performance capturing every nuance and subtlety of this highly disturbed man creating a physical life revealing his anal retentive qualities, such as constantly fixing his sweater as well as making sure everything is in its place. Clegg has gone through great pains in decorating the cellar in preparation for Miranda’s imprisonment, including stocking the closet with clothing. His quiet, soft spoken, almost cooperative exterior belies the seething violence lying just beneath his surface, making his controlled demeanor quite frightening as one could see an eruption waiting to happen.
Jaimi Paige as Miranda gives a tour-de-force performance as she struggles to find a way out of this horrific situation. With the action beginning with her kidnapping, the terror and ensuing responses to the situation is quite a challenge that Paige achieves seamlessly. From hysteria to cajoling to trying be cooperative or seductive, a broad range of touching emotional responses results in a deeply layered characterization.
Director Edwards skillfully keeps the action moving, making each moment almost spellbinding as Miranda and Frederick begin their battle of wits, but her superior education and intelligence is always a match for this cunning, sexually backward psychopath. At one point Miranda does convince Frederick that he should release her and he agrees to keep her only for a month saying, “I just have to have you stay a little longer.”
Staged in the smaller of the two theatres, set designer Edward Edwards made creative use of the limited space that actually enhances the claustrophobic experience that Miranda is feeling.
The lighting design by Chad Wood was restricted in creativity because of the constraints of the venue with the extensive use of blackouts leaving the audience sitting in the dark which, on second thought, gave one a chance to take a breath and slow down a rapidly beating heart.
A gripping script, interpreted by a most capable director, who elicited two memorable performances, makes The Collector a very exciting evening of theatre.
Ruskin Group Theatre
3000 Airport Road
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Run: Fridays & Saturdays
through March 6