"The Sisters Rosensweig" takes place on a weekend in
late August 1991 as the Soviet Union is toppling, AIDS is devastating
the gay community and, the breach between rich and poor in America
is becoming greater every day. But as the Rosensweigs gather
in the elegant London home of Sara (Rosensweig) Goode to celebrate
her 54th birthday, their concerns are much more personal: growing
old, finding love and keeping one’s identity - in this case Jewish
It was playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s genius to blend worldwide
and personal crises in a play that is both touching and tremendously
funny, and happily, the Heights Players have chosen "The
Sisters Rosensweig" for their February production, which
closes this weekend.
Directed by Steve Velardi ("Jake’s Women," "The
Fantasticks") the show features Christina Cass (most recently,
Terry in "Side Man") as Pfeni Rosensweig, Ana Jacome
as Gorgeous (Rosensweig) Teitelbaum and Susan Faye Groberg, who
played Gorgeous in the Gallery Players’ production, now taking
the role of Sara. The performances of these talented actresses
are so convincing that I found myself calling my own sister when
I returned home after the play.
These three feisty daughters of Rita Rosensweig (who single-handedly
defeated the Cossacks with her beauty and wisdom) each have their
own way of dealing with life’s vicissitudes.
Sara is a successful managing director of the Shanghai Bank of
Europe. Married twice ("Multiple divorce is definitely a
good thing; you get so many names to choose from"), she
is independent, cynical and, except for the somewhat perverted,
possibly anti-Semitic, proper and boring Nicholas Pym (John Pepi,
last seen as the first cop in "A View from the Bridge"),
unwilling to let another man into her life. Then the New York
furrier Merv Kant (the masterful Michael Janove, previously seen
in The Heights Players’ "Moon Over Buffalo" and "Sweet
Bird of Youth") walks into Sara’s home (so beautifully designed
by Gerry Newman this reviewer would happily move in) and disrupts
her comfortable but cold world.
At the same time, Sara is trying to deal with the decision her
daughter, Tess (Jennifer Arnold) has made to join her Lithuanian
boyfriend, Tom Valiunus (Andy Davis) on a mission to help the
freedom fighters in the country of his forefathers.
Gorgeous, who has flowered in later life, is now a radio announcer
who goes under the name Dr. Gorgeous ("Have you heard of
Dr. Pepper? So I’m Dr. Gorgeous.") and is a tour guide for
her temple sisterhood currently on a trip to London. She is a
Jewish mother’s dream - having married a lawyer and produced
Pfeni is a globe-trotting writer with no more baggage than two
shopping bags. Her current boyfriend is director Geoffrey Duncan
(the capable Philip Bartolf), a bisexual she met while watching
"Giselle" ("I know you can’t tell a book by its
cover, but Sweetsie you’re in the wrong library all together,"
Yet the three sisters are remarkably attuned to each other on
an emotional level and enormously tolerant of each others’ weaknesses.
Though it’s obvious by the end of the play that these weaknesses
are far fewer than their strengths.
If Wasserstein is brilliant in her development of unforgettable
characters, her dialogue is equally outstanding. Her one-liners
follow each other as quickly as bullets in a battle.
And they always hit their mark.
"The Sisters Rosensweig" made its New York premiere
in 1992 at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. It featured
Jane Alexander as Sara, Madeline Kahn as Gorgeous and Frances
McDormand as Pfeni. After rave reviews, the show moved to Broadway’s
Barrymore Theatre, where it earned an Outer Critics Circle Award
for Best Broadway Play and Kahn a Tony for Best Actress.
More than 10 years later, "The Sisters Rosensweig"
has not tarnished, and in the polishing hands of the Heights
Players, it keeps every bit of its sparkle.
"The Sisters Rosensweig" plays through Feb. 22, Fridays
and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets are $12,
$10 seniors and students. The Heights Players are located at
26 Willow Place between State and Joralemon streets in Brooklyn
Heights. For tickets, call (718) 237-2752.
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010