Wendy Wasserstein Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

How does Wendy Wasserstein use humor to comment on the status of American women?

How does Wasserstein use music to support her themes?

Discuss Wasserstein’s use of flashbacks. Is this device more effective than presenting events in chronological order?

How does Uncommon Women, and Others reflect the social changes of the 1970’s?

The Heidi Chronicles deals with the search for identity. What does Heidi discover about herself over the course of the play?

Compare the characters and themes of The Sisters Rosensweig to those of Anton Chekhov’s The Three Sisters (1901).

Wasserstein’s plays have been characterized as too traditional. Defend or attack this view.

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Wendy Wasserstein, though best known for her plays, was the author of several teleplays, including The Sorrows of Gin (1979), an adaptation of John Cheever’s short story, and An American Daughter (2000), an adaptation of her play. She also wrote several unproduced film scripts. Her essays, which appeared in numerous periodicals, including Esquire and New York Woman, have been published in two collections, Bachelor Girls (1990) and Shiksa Goddess (2001).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Wendy Wasserstein has been hailed as the foremost theatrical chronicler of the lives of women of her generation. Her plays, steeped in her unique brand of humor, are moving, sometimes wrenching explorations of women’s struggle for identity and fulfillment in a world of rapidly shifting social, sexual, and political mores. Most often against the backdrop of the burgeoning feminist movement, her characters navigate through obstacle courses of expectations—those of their parents, their lovers, their siblings, their friends, and, ultimately, themselves. They seek answers to fundamental questions: how to find meaning in life and how to strike a balance between the need to connect and the need to be true to oneself. Wasserstein’s works, which deftly pair wit and pathos, satire and sensitivity, have garnered numerous honors, including the Pulitzer Prize , the Tony (Antoinette Perry) Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Arthur, Helen. “Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles.” Review of The Heidi Chronicles, by Wendy Wasserstein. Nation 261, no. 12 (October 16, 1995): 443-445.

Bennetts, Leslie. “An Uncommon Dramatist Prepares Her New Work.” The New York Times, May 24, 1981, p. C1. Written as Isn’t It Romantic was being previewed, this piece provides a look at Wasserstein’s entry into writing and theater during her high school and college years. Wasserstein discusses feminism and women’s difficulty in making choices in life. Contains photographs of Wasserstein and Steven Robman, the director of Isn’t It Romantic.

Berman, Janice. “The Heidi Paradox.” Newsday, December 22, 1988. This article, in which Wasserstein defines herself as a “feminist,” discusses the male and female characters in The Heidi Chronicles and refers to Wasserstein’s earlier plays. Contains photographs of the playwright, of Joan Allen in The Heidi Chronicles, and of Christine Rose and Barbara Barrie in Isn’t It Romantic.

Ciociola, Gail. Wendy Wasserstein: Dramatizing Women, Their Choices, and Their Boundaries. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1998. Suggests that Wasserstein has not received sufficient critical attention because of her commercial success and takes...

(The entire section is 535 words.)