The Sisters Rosensweig | Critical Review by Edith Oliver

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of The Sisters Rosensweig.
This section contains 663 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Edith Oliver

SOURCE: "Chez Rosensweig," in The New Yorker, Vol. LXVIII, No. 37, November 2, 1992, p. 105.

In the following review, Oliver offers praise for The Sisters Rosensweig.

Admirers of Wendy Wasserstein (fan club may be more like it) will be relieved to know that she is as romantic as ever, and that her head is in the right place, too, while her tongue remains safely in her cheek. I use the word "romantic" because her new play, The Sisters Rosensweig, at the Mitzi Newhouse, is more in tune with her Isn't It Romantic, of some years ago, than with the recent Heidi Chronicles. The Sisters Rosensweig takes place in the elegant London sitting room of Sara Goode, née Rosensweig, a twice-divorced American Jew who is the European director of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank. (It's interesting to note that the small stage of the Mitzi can, under the right auspices, seem as spacious and lavish as any in town; in this instance, the auspices are John Lee Beatty's, and the exquisite lighting is by Pat Collins.) The occasion that launches the action is the celebration of Sara's fifty-fourth birthday, and her two younger—but not much younger—sisters are coming to her house to celebrate. They are Pfeni, a free-lance travel writer, and Gorgeous, a wife and mother who is about to embark on a personal-advice TV program but at the moment is shepherding a group of Jewish ladies on a pilgrimage to the Crown Jewels. (She bears a more than incidental resemblance, by the way, to Dr. Ruth.) We begin with Pfeni's arrival: Sara asks her to "talk to" her rebellious daughter, who plans to leave for Lithuania with her left-wing working-class boyfriend as soon as the party is over. Then Pfeni's beau, a bright bisexual director, brimming with high spirits and bitchy anecdotes, arrives; he, in turn, has invited an associate of his from America. The associate is a hearty, noisy Jewish manufacturer of fake fur who, once established as a guest, refuses to budge, determined to crash this family occasion. He is also determined to woo and win Sara, who, although her career is moving successfully along, feels she has come to a personal stop.

The funny incidents and the funny lines fly by, so quickly that one is almost unaware that a story is being told, and the laughter is all but continuous until Pfeni's beau confesses that he misses men ("So do I," she says), and their inevitable breakup leaves her disheartened. By the end of the play, Sara, having secretly crept up to bed with the brash visiting American—"How was it?" asks each of her sisters the morning after—realizes that many emotional possibilities are still open. Nothing is over—not even life with daughter. Pfeni pulls herself together, and cheerfully lights out for foreign parts, ready to resume her career; and dear Gorgeous, having been presented with a pink outfit from Chanel by her grateful ladies, decides to cash it in and go home to that TV program and her husband and children. The mood is warm and gemütlich but never foolish. Jean Kerr once described a kind of play that gave her a pain as "an Irish aren't-we-adorable?" The Sisters Rosensweig is not a Jewish "aren't-we-adorable?" There isn't a sentimental key in Wendy Wasserstein's typewriter.

The performance, under the direction of Daniel Sullivan, is superb. Jane Alexander is remarkable as Sara Goode; Frances McDormand and Madeline Kahn are Pfeni and Gorgeous. Robert Klein, a one-man explosion of sex and mirth, is the visiting American furrier; John Vickery is a blithe spirit if ever there was one; Patrick Fitzgerald is almost irresistible as the boyfriend, his words lightly tinged with brogue; Rex Robbins is an upper-class diplomat invited for the festivities; and Julie Dretzin, making her theatre debut, is Sara's daughter. (Welcome!) The casting is fine throughout and, in the case of Miss Alexander, inspired. Who would have thought the lady to have had so much comedy in her?

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This section contains 663 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Edith Oliver