Wendy Wasserstein (WAHS-ur-steen) was the youngest of the five children of Morris W. Wasserstein, a textile manufacturer, and Lola Scheifer Wasserstein, an amateur dancer. When she was thirteen her family moved to the East Side of Manhattan. There she attended the Calhoun School, where she wrote the school’s musical revue for the mother/daughter luncheons. At Mount Holyoke College she studied to be a congressional intern. Her interest in theater was sparked by a summer playwriting course at Smith College and by her experiences at Amherst College, where she spent her junior year. Wasserstein earned her B.A. in history from Mount Holyoke, and thereafter her M.A. in creative writing from City University of New York. In 1973 her play “Any Woman Can’t,” a satire about a woman whose failure as a tap dancer leads her to marry an egotistical sexist, was produced Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons.
In 1973 Wasserstein entered the Yale Drama School, and one year later her play Happy Birthday, Montpelier Pizz-zazz, a cartoonish caricature of college life focusing on the male domination of women, was first produced. She collaborated with Christopher Durang on When Dinah Shore Ruled the Earth, a parody of beauty contests, which was produced at the Yale Cabaret Theater. These early plays about the suppression of women display an absurdist humor that depends on comic caricatures and a broad use of irony.
In her one-act thesis production at Yale, Uncommon Women and Others, her style moved closer to realism. She subsequently expanded the play into a full-length comedy that was eventually produced Off-Broadway by the Phoenix Theater on November 21, 1977. The drama opens on a reunion between five women and then flashes back six years to their senior year in college. The play abounds in contrasts, among them that between the women’s present condition and their past expectations. After sipping sherry and folding their napkins at Mrs. Plumm’s gatherings the women leave and discuss masturbation and the possibilities of male menstruation. Contrasts are also reflected in the women’s inner turmoil. At times all of them are...
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