Wednesday, February 2, 2005

We are family

'The Sisters Rosensweig' opens at Liberty

Express Staff Writer

Claudia McCain and Arthur Glen Hughes demonstrate what their cast mates call "charming chemistry" in "The Sisters Rosensweig." Photo by Kirsten Shultz

What is it with sisters? Either they are bitter enemies or attached at the hip. The playwright Wendy Wasserstein took on this dicey subject in 1992 with "The Sisters Rosensweig." The comedy about three uncommon, but engaging women received an Outer Critics Circle Award as well as a Tony Award nomination.

The Company of Fools presents "The Sisters Rosensweig" at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey, Wednesday, Feb. 9, through Sunday, Feb. 27. Directed by John Glenn, the play features Lynn Allison as Sara, Claudia McCain as Gorgeous and Denise Simone as Pfeni.

The cast also features Andrew Alburger, Arthur Glen Hughes, Manny Santiago, Joel Vilinsky and Community School sophomore Rachael Becker, in supporting roles.

"I saw the original production and have considered doing it for years," Glenn said. "Literally, at the first read through we did with this cast, it struck me how terribly romantic it is." It might be romantic inside, but outside it's 1991 and the world is in turmoil. Just for starters the Gulf War was under way, four white policemen assaulted Rodney King in Los Angeles, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested, the Soviet Union collapsed and web browsers were invented. It's in these climes that the sisters reunite in London to celebrate Sara's 54th birthday.

A well-respected banker, the divorced Sara is hosting the house party.

"She's the oldest, and very controlling." McCain said.

"Dry. Dry like toast," Simone quipped, sounding very much like a younger sister.

"We have a great rapport," McCain continued. "The undercurrent of the sister relationship is fun and caring. I've been privileged to play quite brilliant women and this is another. While I am examining her life I see how it relates to my own life. Who you are, what you are and why you are. It's a challenge for everybody."

McCain's character, Sara is eight years older than Gorgeous, and 14 older than Pfeni. In her own way, each of the sisters is an only child, albeit with a shared heritage.

Gorgeous, a suburban mother of four, has taken the route hoped for by "Mother." As such, she represents the sisters' middle class Jewish roots. "She needed a spark," Allison said, "She's a talker, and a lay analyst," who upon her return home is to become a radio call-in counselor.

But she's no dupe, she assured. "She has a big heart. She really cares, but there's always a bit of tension with her because the other two have done things, and she's done what Mother wanted. Married a lawyer and been fruitful."

Meanwhile, Pfeni is a globetrotting writer, with a bisexual beau who happens to live at Sara's house, "taking advantage of my hospitality," McCain said archly.

"She is the wandering Jew," Simone said. "She holds on to everything and holds on to nothing. Little sisters see everything from a far off vantage point. They can get lost in the shuffle."

The one thing these sisters still have in common is a concern with their own identities. Perhaps it's what happens naturally when siblings reunite. They scrutinize who they are in connection with each other and what familial bonds really amount to. For the Rosensweig sisters, this means examining what draws them together as well as what repels them.

"I have witnessed that closeness with sisters," Simone said. "You go the length for your sister."

The women are steeped in their heritage, their parents and their Judaism, yet each has chosen to deal with these things in divergent ways.

"It's a roller coaster ride of where they go with each other," Glenn said.

And, of course, this being Wasserstein, there is humor afoot.

"These are real people with human foibles and from that depth comes the base to be able to belly laugh," Glenn added.

A prolific writer, Wasserstein's plays include "The Heidi Chronicles." In 1989, the play earned Wasserstein both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, making her the only women ever so honored. Her other plays include "Uncommon Women and Others," "Isn't it Romantic?" and "An American Daughter," which received a Tony Award nomination.

Furthermore, she writes screenplays, librettos, articles and the occasional book.

The Fools welcome a new talent to their stage with Allison, a Boise resident. She performs and teaches with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, as well as with Boise Contemporary Theater. Her many credits include "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Quilters," "The Comedy of Errors," and "Dancing at Lughnasa."

Simone couldn't help boasting about their new find.

"Lynn is the darling of the theater world in Boise. We're very lucky she was available."

Hughes returns from Boise for his third production with COF.

A veteran of Wood River Valley's stages, among McCain's credits are "Talley's Folly," "James Joyce's The Dead," "Wit" and "Sylvia.'

A founding member of COF, Simone's acting credits include turns in "Shirley Valentine," "The Tempest," "Dinner With Friends," "James Joyce's The Dead" and "Side Man."

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