Wendy Wasserstein | Critical Review by Harold Clurman

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Wendy Wasserstein.
This section contains 667 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Harold Clurman

Critical Review by Harold Clurman

SOURCE: A review of Uncommon Women and Others, in The Nation, New York, Vol. 225, No. 1, December 17, 1977, pp. 667-68.

Highly regarded as a director, author, and longtime drama critic for The Nation, Clurman was an important contributor to the development of the modern American theater. In 1931, with Lee Strasberg and Cheryl Crawford, he founded the Innovative Group Theater, which served as an arena for the works of new playwrights and as an experimental workshop for actors. Strasberg and Clurman introduced the Stanislavsky method of acting—most commonly referred to as "Method" acting—to the American stage. Based on the dramatic principles of Russian actor and director Konstantin Stanislavsky, the method seeks truthful characterization through the conveyance of the actor's personal emotional experiences in similar situations. In the review below, Clurman offers a mixed assessment of Uncommon Women and Others.

Perhaps the most suitable reviewer for Wendy Wasserstein's Uncommon Women and Others would be a young woman who went to college in the early 1970s. This play by a recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama is sympathetically entertaining and if we take her at her word, authentic. I cannot be sure as to the authenticity, but if we grant it that merit, it is also revealing.

The play deals with a group of students (whose average age is 21) at Mt. Holyoke. As with most of the plays by younger writers, there is more description of a condition than development of a situation: there is no "story." Rita (Swoosie Kurtz) is eccentric, possibly promiscuous, and given to bold sexual allusion and confession. Samantha (Ann McDonough) is a virgin who looks forward to marriage and offspring, a state of mind which Rita envies. Holly (Alma Cuervo), imaginative, witty, in her eagerness for love makes playful long-distance advances to men she has casually met.

After graduation, Muffet (Ellen Parker), who years for a hero and perfect mate, will regretfully find employment in an insurance office. Kate (Jill Eikenberry), who has had more lovers than Rita and remains cold withal, will become a lawyer. Leilah (Glenn Close) is interested in anthropology and goes off to Iran where she marries a native. Carter (Anna Levine), the freshman who falls in with the group, appears semi-catatonic, serves as an "ear" to several others. She aims to master typing. Mrs. Plumm (Josephine Nichols), as general supervisor, reads Emily Dickinson at parents'-day meetings; she seems wholly unaware of the intimate life and thoughts of her "girls."

Except for the uncommunicative Carter, all these students are extraordinarily and brightly articulate. They have a special gift for epigrammatic (frequently funny) sallies in sophisticated slang. What they talk about for the most part in sweeping vocabulary of four-letter specificity is sex. The keynote and the pathos of the play are in Rita's farewell as her friends on graduation take leave of one another: "When we're 30 we'll all be fucking amazing." She bethinks herself and repeats the phrase, each time advancing the term of their amazing future to 35, 40 and 45. It is a realization of deep insecurity she shares with all the others as they are about to face the world beyond the campus.

The "girls" have studied Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Wallace Stevens: in short, their college curriculum has been thoroughly "serious." But none of this education seems to have rubbed off on them. There is no talk at all about social affairs, art, literature, theatre, politics. Except for the aforementioned anthropologist, there is no sign of a belief in, or commitment to, anything. Is this typical or true? If it is, let us look to it or woe betide us all!

The cast in the main is wonderfully attractive and talented. Still I had the impression that, though the actors were all giving excellent performances, I did not always believe in them as persons. This may be due to the expert but rather too meticulous direction. Actors who are too thoroughly controlled by a director tend to lose the freedom which fosters individuality, spontaneity, truth.

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This section contains 667 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Harold Clurman
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