When Yvonne Perry first saw “The Sisters Rosensweig” nearly two decades ago, the prospect of playing Gorgeous Teitelbaum never entered her mind.
“I was in my 20s when I first saw it, but now that I’m very solidly middle-aged, I am very happy to have the opportunity to play her,” said Perry. “A part like this doesn’t come along that often in a career.”
Gorgeous is one of three sisters in Wendy Wasserstein’s 1993 critically acclaimed Broadway play. Joining Perry as her two sisters in the Capital Repertory Theatre production will be New York City-based actresses Marcy McGuidan as Sara Goode and Bernadette Quigley as Pfeni Rosensweig. The show begins with previews Friday through Sunday, opens Tuesday and runs through Feb. 19.
Wasserstein’s work, which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play, was semiautobiographical, focusing on the lives of three Jewish sisters and their relationships. While they grew up in Brooklyn, the play is set in London in 1991 as all three sisters enjoy a reunion while celebrating Sara’s birthday.
“It’s a play that’s a wonderful combination of drama and comedy,” said Perry, a Voorheesville native who played Rosanna on “As the World Turns” from 1992-95 and has performed on the stage at numerous venues in the Capital Region, including Capital Rep, Hubbard Hall, New York State Theatre Institute and StageWorks/Hudson to name a few. “Just when you think it’s getting too serious, it gets goofy again, and when you think it’s getting a bit goofy, it gets serious. It’s my favorite Wasserstein play because it has such a consistent narrative. She was pretty witty, intelligent, a very well-connected woman, and she writes her characters that way. It’s so much fun to be in one of her plays.”
‘The Sisters Rosensweig’
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Previews Friday through Sunday; opens Tuesday and runs through Feb. 19; performance times vary
HOW MUCH: $60-$20
MORE INFO: 445-7469, www.capitalrep.org
Suited to play role
Gorgeous is a radio personality from the Boston area who has pretty much everything going for her. She is a celebrity to some degree, and she has a handsome husband, beautiful children and a wonderful home.
“She has what she calls a comfortable lifestyle, but she needed a sparkle to make it all perfect,” said Perry, describing her character. “She has a wickedly witty sense of humor, but she’s extremely observant of what’s going on around her. She calls herself a real juggler. It’s a role that takes advantage of my comedic skills, so I’m excited to show what I can do. I don’t usually get those offered to me.”
Perry, who does a lot of commercial television work in the Capital Region, including serving as host of “Real Estate Showcase,” feels she is well suited to play her character.
“I’m only nine months younger than my character’s supposed to be, and I’m fine with being middle aged,” said Perry, who also teaches theater at the University at Albany. “I understand what these women have been through; I appreciate the issues they’re dealing with. I couldn’t have played her if I was in my 20s.”
Along with its nomination for Best Play, “The Sisters Rosensweig” earned four other nominations, with Madeline Kahn, playing Gorgeous, winning the Tony for Best Actress in a Play. It was Wasserstein’s second major success on Broadway, having earlier earned a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for her 1989 play “The Heidi Chronicles.”
“Her characters are real complicated, just like real people,” said Perry, “and it’s a joy as an actor to play her characters.”
New York City-based director Michael Bush is directing the play, while rounding out the cast are Cara Vacek as Tess, Richard Hollis as Geoffrey Duncan, Douglas Rees as Mervyn Kant, Cornelius Geaney Jr. as Tom Valiunus and Michael McKenzie as Nicholas Pym.
“This play appeals to me because it’s a wonderful combination of something wonderfully comic that has some real serious undertones to it,” said Bush, who most recently directed Leslie Uggams’ one-woman show at Capital Rep last year. “It’s a play with what I call special verbiage. Wendy was a great writer who knew how to write language and dialogue. I’m always drawn to plays about words, and this is a very special one.”
Wasserstein died in January of 2006 at the age of 55 from lymphoma.
“I wouldn’t say I knew her well, but I was close to some people she was close to, so we sort of ran in the same circles,” said Bush. “During the 1980s and ’90s, the heyday of late 20th century American writers, Wendy was right there. She was one of those great writers.”
Bush had a major role in casting “The Sisters Rosensweig” for Capital Rep and felt like it was more important for the three actresses to have some chemistry between them than to actually bear any family resemblance.
“That’s something you always consider because you are trying to put together a household,” said Bush. “But to me to have them look alike isn’t that important because you’re always seeing siblings that don’t look alike. What you’re looking for is that right combination. You pick them individually, and then you have call-backs, and then you hone things down. We were looking for three women who can play real people because that’s how Wendy wrote them.”