Friday, January 20, 2012

Life on the Stage

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but I am sometimes attracted to biographies about people I find intriguing. That was the case with Julie Salamon's Wendy and the Lost Boys:The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein. I admire Wasserstein's plays, especially her Pulitzer and Tony winning “The Heidi Chronicles”, but what really piqued my interest was an essay she wrote for The New Yorker describing how, at the age of forty-eight, she underwent in vitro fertilization and gave birth (three months prematurely) to her daughter Lucy Jane. It was written in such an honest and open way that I felt as if I knew her. And I was shocked when just seven years later she died of lymphoma.

Salaman traces Wasserstein's life from her comfortable childhood in Brooklyn and Manhattan, through her years at Mount Holyoke and Yale Drama School, to her successes and failures in the theater and in her personal life. She was a larger than life character, a mainstay of the New York theater community, a woman with a huge network of devoted friends. And yet it is clear from Salamon's account that although many friends thought they knew her well, each knew only a piece of Wendy.

The characters in her plays were often conflicted and insecure, trying to please their families, find their soul mates, achieve their ambitions – all with a bracing sense of humor. Clearly they reflected Wasserstein's own psyche. Salamon's biography captures the many facets of this complex women.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know about this book, but I've always loved and admired Wasserstein, too. My own family laughs their way through everything --even tragedy-- so I relate to her style so well.