Considering the traditional influence of the Jewish family on their offspring, it's surprising that we come to know so little of the parents or the childhood of the principal characters in Wendy Wasserstein's comedy/drama "The Sisters Rosensweig." Instead they spring upon us, grown up and idiosyncratically as different as Chekhov's similarly love and life driven ladies.
"Sisters" is the final play of the season at the Schoolhouse Theatre in Croton Falls, N.Y., and it perfectly reflects the growth of this little theater into one of the area's most professional. The production is handsome and the acting first rate.
Wasserstein's 1992 play centers around the reunion in London of three sisters, all over 40, who have already had more than one go at romance and now find themselves treading water emotionally.
Three-time divorcee Sara Goode (Milica Govich) is the oldest and the most successful. She's the owner of the elegant town house where the play takes place and is head of a Hong Kong bank. Not bad credentials for a girl from Brooklyn. She shares her home with her daughter Tess (Kari Geddes) who seems smitten with the same sense of rebellion that has driven her mother and two aunts.
Pfeni -- once Penny -- Rosensweig (Mollie O'Mara) is a globetrotting journalist who can't quite settle down. Or is her life on the go just an excuse for not making lasting commitments?
The third sister, Gorgeous Teitelbaum (Amy Marcs), is the most colorful of the siblings. A self-proclaimed "housewife, mother and radio personality" from Newton, Mass., she dispenses advice asked for or not.
While all three sisters have some measure of material success in their lives, they still lack the man their mother expected them to nab.
Although Wasserstein's play is clearly focused on the ladies, it is the men in their lives that serve as catalysts for change.
Sara toys with the snobbish Nicholas Pym (David Licht), who seems to be have been picked out for favor like a piece of furniture to match the lady's posh digs.
Pfeni is in a rollercoaster relationship with flamboyant bisexual theater director, Geoffrey Duncan (Neal Mayer), while young Tess is planning to leave for an unsettled country in Europe with her politically radical boyfriend, Tom Valiunus (David Rigo).
Financial troubles back home have keep Gorgeous' husband in America.
Clearly the sisters are not batting a thousand.
The play's social flow is redirected by the arrival of American furrier Mervyn Kant (Steve Perlmutter), who, with political correctness, now deals in "synthetic animal protective coverings." Kant is as down to earth as a Brooklyn bagel and it doesn't take long for him to recognize in Sara's aloof and chilly persona a woman who needs to have her world shaken up.
The playwright is much wittier than the subject matter of many of her plays would seem to allow and the evening at Sara's is filled with humor -- "funsy" things as Gorgeous would put it -- and some sweetly romantic moments as well.
Govich is very good as the too-pulled-together Sara and brings a welcome warmth to the role once Kant begins his old fashioned wooing.
Normally the actress playing Gorgeous runs away with the show (Madeline Kahn won a Tony Award for the part) and Marcs is indeed hilarious, but it is Mayer's super-exuberant Geoffrey that lights up the sky.
Though the sisters are able to re-energize their dreams, there is a touch of Chekhovian fatalism in the bittersweet but realistic conclusion.
John Pollard designed the set and if I say it reminded me of one of Bloomingdale's designer show rooms, I mean it as the highest compliment. Pollard who also turned out the perfect and perfectly homey setting for the last show, "Crimes of the Heart," is clearly a man with a passion for pleasing visions and detail.
The theater's artistic director, Pamela Moller Kareman, is at the helm and as she has demonstrated at the Schoolhouse before she is a top-drawer director, smoothly blending the give and take of this often wordy but completely captivating play.
"The Sisters Rosensweig" plays through June 24 at the Schoolhouse Theatre, 3 Owens Road, Route 22, Croton Falls, N.Y. (Exit 8 off Interstate 684). Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 4. Tickets are $25 on Thursdays and Fridays and $29 on Saturdays and Sundays; call the box office at (914) 277-8477
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