Monday, January 30, 2006

Gone Too Soon, Another One

Ahhh, great.

Wendy Wasserstein was a hero to me and to a lot of actors and writers my age. In 1989, the year after I got out of school, Wasserstein was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play in the same season, both for the great The Heidi Chronicles. (Which has been radically misunderstood as a "feminist tract" by a lot of people. Like any examination of the life and times of a smart, capable woman from the 60s to the 80s has to be Steinem-riffic.) She crowned that work with a play for the 1992-93 season, The Sisters Rosensweig, which, yeah, owes some to Chekhov's three sisters in its examination of family scattered and relationships bruised, but she preserves the upper-middle-class New York Jewish milieu (even though the play is set in London; how she do dat!) and the great good humor that were her trademarks. (Check out her delightful kids' book, Pamela's First Musical, which describes a little girl's maiden trip to a Broadway show, where she sees, among other things, the leading lady Ethel Mary Bernadette, and "pairs of well-dressed men." Hahaha.) The Sisters Rosensweig was a hit (for a straight play in the 90s, anyway) and some critics preferred it to the prohibitive audience and critical favorite of that season, Tony Kushner's great Angels in America, Part 1: Milennium Approaches. Not a hugely famous face, she was, nevertheless, a frequent pinch-hitter for David Letterman, who once commented on that very fact after they shared a great interview, even though she had absolutely nothing to plug at the time. Perhaps that's what made it such a great interview.

She spoke to Dave, she spoke to New Yorkers, she spoke to a lot of us. Now Wendy Wasserstein has left the room. I miss her voice already.


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