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February 21, 1992 - Image 70

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-02-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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to the

ENTERTAINMENT

PRICES AT A 5 YEAR LOW

LO

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ER
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(-(

Love's Labors Lost
Found, Lost Again

MICHAEL ELKIN

Special to The Jewish News

W

endy Wasserstein is
warm and witty.
She is also wickedly
romantic.
With her two most recent-
ly completed works, the
playwright has sent the
stage two valentines with a
twist. Isn't It Romantic? and

The Heidi Chronicles

chronicle love's labor lost .. .
and found . . . and lost again.
"My newest play, which
I'm just working on now, is
about a slightly older
woman who falls in love. It's
a new challenge for me,"
says Ms. Wasserstein with a
laugh. "She winds up
happy."
Ms. Wasserstein is a
winner in more ways than
one. Her library mantle
must sag under the weight of
awards and honors earned
over the years. Indeed, the
Pulitzer Prize-winning
playwright has captured the
hearts and minds of critics
and public alike.
But there is one major
critic who still carps at what
she considers Ms. Wassers-
tein's one failing.
"My mother wants me to
get married," says
Ms. Wasserstein.
Not that Momma turns her
back on her daughter's
success. Indeed, both Lola
and Morris Wasserstein of
New York covet the koved
that comes Wendy's way
with her many career ac-
complishments.
But possibly nothing
would make Mom happier at
this juncture than staging a
real-life production of The
Wendy Chronicles, with a
nice Jewish guy as her
daughter's lifetime co-star.
"My mother," says Ms.
Wasserstein appreciatively,
"is a constant."
A mother's love is a love
forever — and the
playwright wouldn't have it
any other way. Ms. Wassers-
tein praises her mother, who
inspired the character of
Mrs. Blumberg in Roman-
ticas a true original — in the
best sense of the word.
"I would not put up with a
daughter if I had one like
me," says Ms. Wasserstein
admiringly of her mother. "I
don't know if I could stand
it."

Michael Elkin is the enter-
tainment writer for the Jewish
Exponent in Philadelphia.

Wendy Wasserstein:
Chronicler.

The theater world, though,
could stand a few more
Wendy Wassersteins. The
Heidi Chronicles has at-
tracted considerable atten-
tion and acclaim during its
national tour, following, as
it does, a long run on Broad-
way.
Is Dr. Heidi Holland a
woman of the '90s? "Oy! The
' 9 Os,'' bemoans Ms.
Wasserstein, current war
broadcasts echoing through
her mind. "The '90s are
more than Heidi bargained
for —they're really out
there!"
Heidi can have it all — or
can she? For a superwoman
with such a wish, there is
danger in every corner.
Sometimes, however, the
weaknesses come from
within. "For a woman, the
pressure (to succeed) often
comes from inside and out,"
says the playwright.
Peer pressure to do it all
can do a woman in. "But the
most danger is when it
comes from oneself," says
Ms. Wasserstein. "There are
so many ways to beat
yourself up."
Indeed, Ms. Wasserstein
has whipped herself in bouts
of self-doubt born of in-
security. "I've had my
fiercest battles with myself,"
she admits.
The battleground was
forged in childhood. "It
comes from growing up to be
a good girl, then a good
woman — and discovering
it's never good enough."
Which is not good news.
"That's particularly true of
Jewish women," says Ms.
Wasserstein of the emphasis
on an almost impossible
search for perfection.
Audiences care for Ms.
Wasserstein's chronicle of

Heidi's chronic need to
achieve. But, as a recent
tangle proved, at least one
mover and shaker in
Movieland had trouble
understanding what Heidi is
all about.
Heidi has found a home in
Hollywood, with Ms.
Wasserstein as screenwriter.
But Ms. Wasserstein could
never have scripted more
absurd dialogue than what
she heard from one
Tinseltown type, who told
her, "We really love your
play, but we only have prob-
lems with the main
character, second act and
ending."
No way would Ms.
Wasserstein have Heidi
treated with anything less
than respect. "I like Heidi,"
says Ms. Wasserstein.
"She's a woman of dignity —
a serious, good person."
As is her creator. "I'm a
little bit more show biz," she
laughs. "Heidi's more
disciplined."
Writing for theater is a
discipline to which Ms.
Wasserstein can relate. "I

Heidi has found a
home in Hollywood,
with Ms.
Wasserstein as
screenwriter.

love theater," she says,
savoring early memories of
Broadway matinees and
their promise of magic.
Indeed, playwriting is just
another stagecoach stop on
the Wasserstein theatrical
trail: Grandpop Shima
Schleifer, a Hebrew high
school principal, was also a
playwright.
His granddaughter has
done well for herself. And
how about the characters
that the "kid" has created?
"Janie has evolved," says
Wendy of the Jewish heroine
in her Isn't It Romantic? "I
think Janie's now writing
for 'Sesame Street' and has
quite a nice husband —
someone with a sense of
humor, someone gentle."
And Heidi? "Heidi is doing
well, too," she says.
As is Ms. Wasserstein; the
awards and honors come in
handy.
"The Pulitzer made a dif-
ference. It's a vote of con-
fidence for those days when
I'm hard on myself."
She thinks, then adds with
a wry chuckle, "Or when I
call my mother." ❑

(

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