"I feel as if I'm under-articulating."
Mary Whipple | New England | 02/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wendy Wasserstein's debut play, directed by Merrily Mossman and Steven Robman, is brought to hilarious life in this finely cast production starring Swoosie Kurtz, Jill Eikenberry, and Meryl Streep. Setting the play in 1970 at Mount Holyoke College, Wasserstein focuses on six young women who are about to graduate and go out into a world newly sensitized to feminist goals. Caught between traditional values of home, hearth, and finding a husband, and sexual liberation, women's liberation, and personal liberation, these women are on the cusp of a whole new way of life. The play opens a few years after graduation as the women meet to reminisce about their lives in college, where "milk-and-crackers" teas and "gracious living" have dominated.
Filmed on location, the play dramatically illustrates every aspect of life in a women's college in 1970. An Emily Dickinson-reading "housemother" works to make these students into "ladies" while they explore options never before open to them. Both sympathetic and satiric, the author also includes discussions of Women's History courses, snapshots of Father-Daughter Weekend, and interactions among the various women as they explore who they are and who they will become. Swoosie Kurtz, as Rita, is the dominant figure in the action, a promiscuous and iconoclastic woman who wants to write the great American novel and who refuses to bend to convention.
In contrast to her is Streep, playing a minor role as Leilah, a shy student who plans to study anthropology in Iraq after graduation. Other characters include Jill Eikenberry, as Kate, who plans to attend law school; Ann McDonough as Samantha, who is in love and believes her primary role is to be as wife and mother; Alma Cuervo as Holly Kaplan, who is not sure what she wants her role to be; and Ellen Parker as Muffet, who becomes "partly liberated" but has yet to define her ultimate goals. Throughout the play, the voice of Anthony Scourby narrates a promotional film for the college, illustrating the gap between what is real (as we see it onstage) and what is ideal (as we hear the college PR).
Wonderfully poignant pictures of the social, sexual, and personal conflicts faced by these bright students in 1970 evolve as the students fumblingly make the transition between traditional expectations and unlimited possibilities. The humor is broad but to the point, and anyone who has attended a similar college in the same time period will identify with the conflicts experienced by these "uncommon women" on the cusp of true "liberation." Mary Whipple
Still resonant after all these years
Charles Paul Hoffman | New York, NY USA | 04/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I caught this on PBS this weekend and was quite impressed. Despite its *very* dated appearance, it drew me in immediately with its wit - it made me sad again at Wendy Wasserstein's untimely death. But it was not just funny - the characters felt real and you could sympathize with their ambitions and ultimately their unfulfilled desires. I would recommend to any fan of Wasserstein, esp. as this is probably the only chance you will get to actually see the play performed.
Incidentally, I noticed in my copy of the play (published with The Heidi Chronicles) that the PBS version was all of the original cast, except Meryl Streep's role was originally performed on stage by Glenn Close."
H. Goldman | New York | 03/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A play that takes you into the distorted world of a women's college, circa 1970, but still relevant to today in its main themes...Although the language has been somewhat cleaned up - the F word edited out, among others - it's a wonderfully fast excursion into the wit and mind of the beloved Wendy Wasserstein, and one not to be missed...Think of it as what Seinfeld would have looked like without men, and then add large doses of richly observed and well-acted scenes from a young and brilliant Meryl Streep, and a fresh Jill Eikenberry, and a fabulously lithe Swoosie Kurtz, nicely shot to give you its sense of being a play for the stage...H"
Wonderful witty women worth getting to know . . .
Marc Harshbarger | Chic-a-go-go | 09/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Wendy Wasserstein's "Uncommon Women and Others" is a small film with big performances--all of the actresses shine in this memory play about five women reminiscing about their college days. The cast includes Jill Eikenberry (who went on to TV's "L.A. Law"), the delightful Swoosie Kurtz (who plays the delightful Rita) and Meryl Streep (who you all know and who is, of course, wonderful in a supporting role). Besides Ms. Kurtz's scene-stealing performance, two others stood out for me--Cynthia Herman as the bubbly Susie Friend, who likes to celebrate Piglet's birthday (I guess you had to be there), and Alma Cuervo as Holly, whose telephone call to a man she's got a crush on while James Taylor sings is the highlight of the movie--at least it was for me. I felt like hiding under Holly's raccoon coat, too, after that emotional scene. So if you want to see some great acting by some amazing actresses, I highly recommend that you join these uncommon women for "milk and crackers" and enjoy."