January 30, 2006

Wendy Wasserstein (1950-2006)

Sometimes we're touched by the passing of someone we hadn't thought about in years, someone who created a small work that remains fresh in memory as a symbol of what we were back then. Wendy Wasserstein was best known for her Pulitzer-prizewinning play THE HEIDI CHRONICLES, but what I remember of hers is a previous work, UNCOMMON WOMEN AND OTHERS (1977), which I saw when it was broadcast as a 1979 PBS special starring a very young and unknown Meryl Streep (in a role played onstage by an also unknown Glenn Close) and the wonderful Swoosie Kurtz (whom I saw most recently as John Locke's mother on the TV series LOST, though she's done many finer things in live theater and elsewhere). Streep in her twenties with a long mane of blonde hair was immediastely recognizable as a phenomenon. The play is about a group of Mount Holyoke coeds (that antiquated word applies) who are anticipating graduation and entry into adult life. The characters' refrain, "We're gonna be great when we're 45," still echoes today for this lover of uncommon women, with added poignancy.

Here's the NYT obituary by Charles Isherwood.