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Wasserstein Play Is Strong on Comedy, Weak on Depth

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THE SISTERS ROSENSWEIG. Comedy by Wendy Wasserstein. Directed by Daniel Sullivan. Executive producer Bernard Gersten. At the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center, Andre Bishop artistic director.

WHEN the teenage daughter in "The Sisters Rosensweig" confesses her profound dismay at trying to discover who she really is, the quandary reflects not only that of the character, but of the play itself.

The new Wendy Wasserstein play ricochets effortlessly between the best-remembered atmospherics of Noel Coward and the stubbornly jokey patter of American situation comedy. Given Ms. Wasserstein's remarkably facile writing style, the result is at times very funny. It is also disappointingly one-dimensional.

The sisters of the title are three: Sara (played by Jane Alexander) the eldest, who is twice divorced and celebrating her 54th birthday, runs the European division of a Hong Kong bank; Pfeni (Frances McDormand), the youngest at 40, marks time as an international travel writer while putting off more serious writing endeavors and engaging herself in a part-time but serious romance with Geoff (John Vickery), a director; and Gorgeous (Madeline Kahn), the middle sister, who displays great satisfaction with he r transition from housewife, mother, and ready conversationalist to local radio personality and future cable television star.

Gorgeous, who is leading the ladies of her suburban Massachusetts Temple Beth-Israel Sisterhood on a tour of the British crown jewels, and Pfeni, dropping in on her way from Bombay to Kurdistan, come to Sara's lavish London townhouse for her birthday, and for the next 36 hours confront the Problems with Their Lives.


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