In the Moment: Theater J’s ‘The Sisters Rosensweig’

What now, two decades after the lives depicted in The Sisters Rosensweig? Certainly Theater J has produced a polished, lovingly curated production of Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig. The production captivated me. My DCMTA colleague, Ravelle Brickman, says it so well in her fine review.

L to R: Susan Lynskey, Kimberly Schraf, and Susan Rome. Photo by Stan Barouh.
L to R: Susan Lynskey, Kimberly Schraf, and Susan Rome. Photo by Stan Barouh.

The Sisters Rosensweig is a production that, in the moment the richly detailed Theater J set design (James Fouchrad) comes into view, time, and place are set. The proceedings dramatize the particulars of the very different lives of three Jewish sisters, Sara (Kimgerly Schraf), Pfeni (Susan Lynskey), and Gorgeous (Susan Rome), and some of the exceedingly contrasting men they interact with. The sisters have come together to hole-up for a fleeting moment to celebrate Sara’s fifty-fourth birthday in her sumptuous London home. Sinatra plays on a turn-table and the external world is unseen though often enough spoken of.

Now, several days after seeing The Sisters Rosensweig, some clanking anxieties have not fizzled away. A major angst is this; The Sisters Rosensweig is clearly an important touchstone play about major social and cultural issues for the Baby Boomer generation and the barriers that Wasserstein faced and fought against. But for younger, millennial audiences will Sisters be considered “merely” a “history” play from times of their grandparents’ generation?

Will those under 35, who are larger in numbers than Baby Boomers, come to see the play and its themes? Would today’s progressive young theater patrons think The Sisters Rosensweig outdated or out-of-touch with their own everyday realities and pains? Would those with less affinity to Jewish themed plays come to Theater J?

Michael Russotto and Kimberly Schraf. Photo by Stan Barouh.
Michael Russotto and Kimberly Schraf. Photo by Stan Barouh.

My internal disquiet and questions arose from reading several quotes from the Theater J new Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr and Theater J Associate Artistic Director Shirley Serotsky.

Adam Immerwahr states: “On the heels of DC’s ground breaking Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, which showcased new plays by women, it’s vital that we also continue to celebrate the work of the great 20th century female playwriting pioneers. Wendy Wasserstein  is one of the best, and this joyful masterpiece is not be missed.”

And from Theater J Associate Artistic Director Shirley Serotsky’s program note: “The play marked other theatrical firsts. It presented questions of Jewish identity and assimilation through a specifically feminine lens, and, for Wasserstein, it represented her one foray into the world of the ‘well-made play.” (with nods to Chekhov both in its title and structure.)

Thankfully, Theater J has upcoming post-show programming that give opportunities to provide important dialogues “beyond the stage” performance of The Sisters Rosenweig. The post-show programming that Theater J has scheduled are sessions such as “Galentine’s Day” in partnership with GLOE, about relationships between gay men and straight women, and “Interfaith Themes in The Sisters Rosensweig,” or this one, “Women and Work-From Murphy Brown to Lean In” to be moderated by Cynthia Harrison, Professor Emerita of History, Women’s Studies, and Public Policy, at George Washington University.

So, praise to Theater J for providing opportunities to speculate about what the late playwright Wendy Wasserstein might write if she were still with us, about the “current” lives of those wonderfully resilient three Rosensweig sisters now as they enter their 70s. Hmm, what an intergenerational and/or cross gender discussion that might be. Would they be on Facebook and Skype enjoying conversations among themselves from distant places?

Running Time: Two hours and 45 minutes, with one intermission.

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The Sisters Rosensweig plays through February 21, 2016 at Theater J at The Washington DCJCC’s Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater – 1529 16th Street, NW (16th and Q Streets), in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 777-3210, or purchase them online.


  1. Great column, David! And it raises some very interesting questions. I would love to be a fly on the wall at the post-show discussions.


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