The recently deceased Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein (1950-2006) will be remembered for creating vivid and vulnerable women’s roles. Her comedy The Sisters Rosensweig, currently produced by the Open Door Repertory Company, explores the relationships among a trio of Brooklyn-born, middle-aged Jewish sisters who have each achieved success outside their homes. On the one hand it’s an old-fashioned drawing room comedy complete with suitors and obstacles as abundant as the roses on the wallpaper. On the other, it’s a portrait of strong, complicated women who seem trapped in a constant struggle to either make peace with or free themselves from their Jewish upbringing. Yet they support one another with love and humor.

Though Wasserstein’s script runs on a bit too long toward the end and raises more questions than it answers, director Mary Pat Sieck’s well-paced production provides the perfect showcase for strong actresses. Sieck’s cast quickly fleshes out the characters. Witty and intelligent yet riddled with self-doubt, these sisters are each still trying to define themselves. It’s rare to find a strong older woman portrayed in a comedy, let alone a threesome.

The sisters reunite in London for the first time since their mother’s death. On a summer weekend in 1991, they gather to celebrate the eldest’s 54th birthday.

Sara, the birthday girl, is the most complicated of the Rosensweig sisters. Portrayed by Marie Goodkin, the twice-divorced expatriate is now a successful international banker. Playing a man’s game (banking) this wealthy businesswoman has become emotionally closed off. “I’m a cold, bitter woman who’s turned her back on her family and her religion,” Sara admits. She’s resigned to the fact that her position may drive men away. She’s also recently had a hysterectomy. This role is quite challenging. Sara’s an “ice queen” yet her pain needs to show through.

Sara’s independent-thinking teenage daughter Tess (Ashley Kielian), whom her mom refers to as a “New-Age Emma Goldman,” wants to join the Lithuanian resistance movement with her working-class boyfriend (Douglas Weder) during the collapse of the Soviet Union. These two roles seem underwritten.

The middle sister, who goes by the name Gorgeous, is played by Lisa Pearson who once again shows her expertise as a comedienne. Though her role is derived from the Jewish princess stereotype, Pearson makes Gorgeous multidimensional as well as hilarious. Though this know-it-all sister initially seems the best adjusted of the trio as she endlessly spews her folksy advice to anyone within earshot, her personal insecurities quickly become as obvious as her flashy fashion accessories. Gorgeous, who theoretically did everything right by marrying a lawyer and raising her family in a Boston suburb, has recently reinvented herself as “Dr. Gorgeous,” the host of a popular call-in radio program.

Pfeni, the 40-year-old “baby” of the Rosensweig sisters, is portrayed by Eden Novak. She’s a self-proclaimed “wandering Jew,” a globe-trotting writer who lives her life “like she is on an extended junior year abroad.” In addition to specializing in covering undeveloped areas of the world, Phefi also seems to specialize in relationships with unattainable men. Lately she’s been having an affair with a bisexual musical director who admits he now “misses men.”

Pfeni’s charismatic boyfriend is especially well played by Patrick Stinson with a combination of sweetness and comic energy.

A brash Jewish-American businessman, a faux furrier named Merv, shows up uninvited at Sara’s birthday dinner party. “You’re warm and cold all at the same time,” Merv points out to her. Brian Rabinowitz plays this likeable and sincere widower who’s inexplicably but immediately drawn to Sara’s brittle cynicism.

Though she seems to still struggle against her ethnicity, and Merv shares her Jewish Brooklyn roots, Sara warms up to his laidback approach to life and relationships. Merv shows strong interest in her, accusing Sara of having “closed shop” when it comes to love. He persists in infiltrating her life.

The lavish set, Sara’s upscale London townhouse, was designed by Steven Saliny. With everything from ferns to a fireplace, it’s quite nice.

During their sentimental journey on the birthday weekend, the characters sometimes break into brief snippets of old pop tunes. The Four Tops’ “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” has been stuck in my head ever since.

Lynn Kirsch is the producer.

I find family dynamics and sibling relationships enormously interesting. Although this show goes on a bit too long and may try to cover too much ground, it’s a fascinating work that’s been given a solid production by Open Door.

My only gripe: the late playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s name does not appear anywhere in the program.

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Doug Deuchler

Doug Deuchler has been reviewing local theater and delving into our history for Wednesday Journal for decades. He is alsoa retired teacher and school librarian who is also a stand-up comic, tour guide/docent...