The Sisters Rosensweig, National Jewish Theater. This is the Skokie theater that could, defying rumors of its demise to mount a new Equity season, its tenth. And Wendy Wasserstein’s well-made family drama is a wise pick: knowing, warm, and worldly, it’s sure to win a big new audience. It also helps that director Susan Padveen has found the right ensemble, look, feel, pacing, and atmosphere.
A Jewish Three Sisters with characters so diverse they fuel their own 160-minute plot, The Sisters Rosensweig compassionately details the title women’s midlife reappraisals. Successful banker Sara, not quite celebrating her 54th birthday, has shut out most hope of love–until a pushy Bronx furrier named Merv offers her the most persistent courtship this side of Talley’s Folly. Will Sara abandon her independence to escape her loneliness? Meanwhile sister Pfeni cherishes a bisexual (Christopher Walz) who’s about to revert to homo-, while the daffy but sensible third sister, Gorgeous, offers golden advice she can’t quite apply at home.
However conventional the play’s message about the sad state of career women who try to manage without men, Sisters is catnip for actors: Annabel Armour’s strong-willed, care-ridden Sara, Ellyn Duncan’s reliant but wary Pfeni, and Linda Kimbrough’s deceptively bubbly Gorgeous (more effective in her restraint than Nancy Dussault was in the Shubert Theatre’s 1994 touring production). Crucially, Michael Guido as the dogged suitor displays the kind of inexhaustible charm needed to break down Sara’s reserve. And the solid look of the sumptuous set, by Jacqueline and Rick Penrod, communicates the staying power that NJT has mustered to survive.