Wendy Wasserstein won a Pulitzer Prize for The Heidi Chronicles and has delighted audiences with her Sisters Rosensweig, Isn't It Romantic and other plays. Her latest, An American Daughter, opened April 13. Here is your chance to add your voice to those of the critics. Please write your review -- long or short -- and e-mail them to Managing Editor Robert Viagas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments will be posted as they come in.
Please make sure to include your town and state, and please note whether you'd like us to include your full e-mail address so you can receive responses. This is optional, of course. Here are the results so far:
From Ellen Jacobs, NY:
I found Wasserstein's "An American Daughter" one of the most engaging and thought-provoking plays which hv appeared on Broadway in the past several seasons. Contemporary issues, including those re:the nature of family, family myths, friendships, and betrayal -all appear against the background of a contemporary political issue familiar to those who hv followed recent fortunes of US Presidential nominees to Govt. positions. It is difficult (and then not ..)to believe that critics were put off by the gendered argument which Wasserstein makes: Her lead character, played with great vulnerability, and even more inner strength by Kate Nelligan, is representative of some middle-class women, raised in the 1960s, who played 'by the rules' ,entering various professions, married w. children, fulfilling various familial and friendship roles.
Three decades later, Nelligan's character hits a road-block , precipitated by the betrayals of both husband and a supposedly close friend's remarks. The personal interactions between Nelligan's character and her various friends and close relatives seemed awfully true to life; and Nelligan plays the role exceptionally well.
Wasserstein may be stronger in creating dialogue between women, evidenced in her exchanges w Lynne Thigpen's character, and with the younger character-author of 'Prisoner of Gender," a droll satire suggesting a mix of Camille Paglia and contemporary female political analysts appearing on the nightly television news. I was surprised by how challenging Wasserstein's play actually is; it asks contemporary questions of contemporary US politics and social conventions, urging w. comedic asides, the audience to actually think about what is going on in various exchanges relating to power and sexuality; in government and amongst families and friends. It is really good theatre. (5/14/97)
From Paul Nassau:
My wife and I saw An American Daughter last night and loved it. It occurred to us that critics should be required to list their sexual preferences and an idea of how their day went on the day of their review. That way an unwary reader might be able to adjust their reaction to it. After all, many of us can't see everything and need to make enlightened decisions. Luckily we had bought our tickets to this play before it opened. (5/14/97)
From GPowers 369, NYC:
Wendy Wasserstein's AN AMERICAN DAUGHTER.; what an important subject and play. As soon as the curtain goes up, who wouldn't want to be in that living room, discussing ideas with this wonderful cast of characters.
So what went wrong? Wendy Wasserstein certainly has talent, but what a fine line the playwright walks with a comedy about serious issues. And certainly Wasserstein's audience is expecting more laughs for their buck. Like watching Jim Carey play 'Hamlet' and getting the role straight.
The performances are good, except for two major exceptions. Lynne Thigpen's the best in the cast. Hal Holbrook and Penny Fuller are fine. But Kate Nelligan and Peter Reigert, as husband and wife, seem miscast. Riegert's character has a fling with a young female writer (how does this serve the plot?); Nelligan's character hardly reacts (which only disappoints the audience and makes the character seem spineless). Nelligan has the strength, but where's the vulnerability? At the matinee preview I attended (4/2/97), Meryl Streep visited the cast backstage. With Streep in the lead on Broadway (she did readings of the play), AN AMERICAN DAUGHTER would now be the toast of the season. (4/22/97)
Ms Wasserstein has done a very good job doing something that perhaps no longer can, or should, be done in the theater. American Daughter is full of good lines, interesting ideas, likeable and not-so likeable characters...and none of it really matters enough to warrant Broadway prices.
This is clever mock-realism, and TV sitcoms have mined this territory all too well. Sure, this is far superior to TV, but it is not really different in kind. Wendy Wasserstein is not so much smarter than I am that she can, using the tools she has, tell me something I don't know or take me somewhere I haven't been before. Her effort, despite much that is wonderful, falls flat. It's not, I think, her fault; the task isn't doable.
Theatrical comedy isn't dead, but it must bite deeply or somehow play with our heads. It must fool with timing and realism (a la David Ives)or go for the throat (a la Nicky Silver) or provide some sort of overwhelming lushness (eg, Funny Thing... or When Pigs Fly) or provide sparkling star turns (New Vaudeville?). The best well-made play...isn't quite well made enough.
Next week, or next month, or next year, someone will come along and prove there's life in the old girl yet. But for now, I'd say that even Ms Wasserstein can't breathe life into the corpse. (4/15/97)