When Kathryn Hahn got the call to join a virtual reading of The Sisters Rosensweig to support The Actors Fund, there was no hesitation. Despite rocketing into the pop culture stratosphere over the last few years after screen turns in TV shows like Wandavision, Mrs. Fletcher, and Transparent, the Emmy nominee said the decision to sit in her garage for a few hours and step into the shoes of Gorgeous Teitelbaum was a “no brainer.”
Now, audiences will get a chance to see her in the part in Broadway Best Shows' digital presentation May 20, as part of the outlet's Spotlight on Plays series. “We gotta put our phones down for second and watch a play,” she says. Hahn is hopeful The Sisters Rosensweig can inspire people to want to return to theatres after a 15-months-and-counting industry shutdown. “It’s cozy and cathartic, and will wet your whistle for getting yourself back into a theatre in the fall.”
Hahn was surprised after reading the Wendy Wasserstein play that she hadn’t been in it—or even seen it—before. “I can’t even believe it. As a theatre student, it felt very nourishing—to read something new felt like being a student again.” The star’s roots are deeply entrenched in the stage: she graduated Northwestern with a B.A. in theatre before heading to Yale and getting an M.F.A. in drama.
The Sisters Rosensweig originally premiered Off-Broadway in 1992 at Lincoln Center Theater, starring Madeline Kahn as Gorgeous Teitelbaum, Jane Alexander as Sara Goode, and Frances McDormand as Pfeni Rosensweig. The show was an instant hit due to sharp humor and realistic, multi-layered portrayal of three middle-aged Jewish-American sisters who come together in London following the death of their mother.
“It’s hilarious, that writing is just bananas good,” says Hahn. “It’s just a delicious way to spend an afternoon. Nothing like a group of three women arguing about how Jewish they all are and underneath it all they love each other so much.” When it premiered on Broadway in 1993, Khan won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play. “The legacy of... the original cast [is incredible], I’m just really excited to take it on,” Hahn says.
Now, with Lisa Edelstein as Sara and Tracee Chimo Pallero as Pfeni, the performers will put their own 21st century spin on the piece by performing on Zoom. The digital reading Broadway’s Best Shows’ Spotlight on Plays series is directed by Anna D. Shapiro.
“You’re looking into someone’s eyes via the camera and Anna’s so brilliant and understands the limitations and possibilities of it playing smaller because of the technology,” says Hahn. Just because “it’ll be us in our little square Zoom boxes” doesn’t mean the magic is lost, however.
“There’s something that felt very nourishing and nostalgic and moving, doing this from my garage,” she adds. Hahn credits Edelstein and Pallero for being incredible virtual stage partners to create “fresh and interesting Zoom-ish takes.”
It’s not the first time Hahn has gone outside of the box during the pandemic for a theatre experiment. In May of last year, she and her family recreated Glengarry Glen Ross scenes with dolls. Sadly, there will be no dolls in this staging. “We were all set to do another one...and then we missed the moment,” says Hahn of why the Geffen Stayhouse expletive-laden viral hit hasn’t re-emerged with a new installment—and why the bit didn’t transfer for this virtual event. “My daughter was really eager to swear, though. I am so excited for the all-female production [of Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway]. Even if they were all female dolls, I would still be thrilled.”
And while Hahn is too busy right now with kids in school on the West Coast and a packed filming schedule, the star does say she has “unfinished business” with Broadway. After her hilarious turn in Boeing-Boeing back in 2008, one hopes it’s sooner rather than later that she can return to the Main Stem.
In the meantime, however, there’s always special events like these digital readings to benefit others.