In the summer of 1991, the three Rosensweig sisters, Sara (Kimberly Schraf), Gorgeous (Susan Rome) and Pfeni(Susan Lynskey), reunite in Sara’s London home to mark the occasion of the eldest sister’s 54th birthday. What follows is a deluge of minor victories and tragedies that showcase the very different ways the titular sisters handle family, men, money and religion.
In her program note about playwright Wendy Wasserstein, Associate Artistic Director Shirley Serotsky points out the playwright’s many allusions to Chekov, from the title and structure of the play all the way down to mentions by the characters of “sitting around the samovar.”
The Sisters Rosensweig is what I (personally) have always wanted from Chekov but have sadly never gotten – a funny play that examines the personal relationships of real, feeling characters without ignoring the complicated larger world in which those characters live. Although the play is set in the early 1990s, the issues it subtly acknowledges (the AIDS crisis, instability in the former Soviet Union, the refugee crisis in the Middle East) could not be more current, and the choice to ground the design elements firmly in 1991 helps to frame the play as a period piece.
James Fouchard’s set (a perfectly detailed, very early ‘90s chic living room) and Kelsey Hunt’s costumes (high-waisted jeans, stirrup pants and power suits abound) literally set the stage for the real stars of the show – the sisters Rosensweig themselves.
THE SISTERS ROSENSWEIG
January 13 – February 21, 2016
1529 Sixteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
3 hours with 1 intermission
Wednesdays thru Sundays
Tickets: $27 – $67
Check for discounts
The performances by Schraf, Rome, and Lynskey are what make this production superb. Schraf, as the hardened, and always-in-control Sara plays the cold-hearted lady-CEO without relying on stereotype, and lets that façade crack beautifully in the second act when a loudmouth New York furrier named Merv (Michael Russotto) makes Sara question her wholesale dismissal of men.
Susan Rome’s Gorgeous is deliciously over-the-top, and walks the delicate line between endearing and grating. The youngest Rosenweig sister is Pfeni, a traveling journalist who frequently sets herself up to fail, is given a charming realness by Lynskey. Together, the three women create a magnetic and utterly compelling relationship between the sisters, and it is that relationship that really drives the show.
Happily, the sisters’ world is filled out by a deft supporting cast: Russotto is both off-putting and irresistible as Merv; James Whalen is hilarious as Geoffrey, Pfeni’s questionably bi-sexual boyfriend; and Caroline Wolfson is lovely as Sara’s would-be-Lithuanian Freedom Fighter of a teenage daughter.
The Sisters Rosensweig at Theater J is a masterful production of a beautiful play; Wasserstein’s importance in the recent history of the American theatre cannot be overstated and Theatre J is the perfect place to help her legacy live on.
The Sisters Rosensweig by Wendy Wasserstein . Directed by Kasi Campbell . Featuring Josh Adam, Edward Christian, Susan Lynskey, Susan Rome, Michael Russotto, Kimberly Schraf, James Whalen, and Caroline Wolfson . Set Design: James Fouchard . Lightening Design: Harold F Burgess II . Sound Design: Neil McFadden . Costume Design: Kelsey Hunt . Props Design: Michelle Elwyn . Dialect Coach: Tonya Beckman . Dance Coach: Kevin Laughon . Stage Manager: Jeanette L. Buck. Produced by Theatre J . Reviewed by Jessica Pearson.