‘The Sisters Rosensweig’ plays at Hebrew Center Arts Festival

Leslie J. Stark rehearses. — Photo by Sally Cohn

Wendy Wasserstein’s play “The Sisters Rosensweig” will be presented in a staged reading at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center Arts Festival in Vineyard Haven for one performance only at 4 pm on this Sunday, April 22.

Island actor and director Leslie J. Stark, a producer of broadcast advertising for a large advertising agency in his former life, said he compressed the play to bring it in under one and one half hours.

He directs the production, created on Broadway by Robert Klein, and also appears in the role of Mervyn. The other cast members are Myra Stark (Sara), Stephanie Burke (Gorgeous), Harriet Bernstein (Pfeni), Gayle Stiller (Tess), Mike Adell (Geoffrey), and Jay Sigler (Nickolas).

Considered by many critics to be Ms. Wasserstein’s finest and most autobiographical play, “The Sisters Rosensweig” is at times hilariously funny and painfully poignant. In 1993 Ms. Wasserstein received the William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in American Theatre for this play. The action takes place during a weekend in late August 1991. The setting is the lavish living room of Sara Goode in Queen Anne’s Gate, London.

Sara, a successful international banker, the eldest of three sisters, is a divorced single mother living in London with her daughter, Tess. Her sisters are in London to celebrate Sara’s 54th birthday. They are: Gorgeous Teitelbaum, the youngest, a suburban housewife from Newton who is also a talk-show personality; and Pfeni, a journalist and travel writer who has an on-and-off relationship with Geoffrey Duncan, a flamboyant director of musicals. A friend of Geoffrey’s, Merv Kant, a faux furrier, suddenly interrupts the family celebration. Sara and Merv unexpectedly discover that even at 54 there are possibilities.

Ms. Wasserstein, one of the foremost American playwrights of the 20th century, was born in Brooklyn in 1950. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College and the Yale Drama School. She died at age 55 in 2006. Her success came in a series of popular plays that included her 1977 breakthrough work, “Uncommon Women and Others,” and the 1989, long-running Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner “The Heidi Chronicles.”

The New York Times theater critic Christopher Isherwood wrote in her obituary, “Ms. Wasserstein’s plays struck a profound chord with women struggling to reconcile a desire for romance and companionship, drummed into baby boomers by the seductive fantasies of Hollywood movies, with the need for intellectual independence and achievement separate from the personal sphere.”

Coming up next

The festival continues on May 13 at 4 pm with the Composer-Performer-Repertory Ensemble; on June 10 at 7 pm is A Conversation with Island Artists hosted by Alan Ganapol; and on June 21 a classical concert featuring the Phoenix Boys Choir from 7 to 8 pm.

Play Reading: “The Sisters Rosensweig” by Wendy Wasserstein, Sunday, April 22, Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, Vineyard Haven. Funded in part by M.V. Cultural Council. $5 suggested donation. 508-693-0745; mvhc.us.