Wendy Wasserstein – A Finished Note

Wendy and the Lost Boys was a slow read for me – not because it was difficult. Reading about Wendy Wasserstein’s life was more like a very long article in New York magazine or Vogue – with enough name-dropping to make it gossipy but with the added value of historical context and life-changing decisions. As Salamon marches through Wasserstein’s home life, college, and post-college angst, she clearly connects the early formative years to later success. If everyone you meet in life has some influence on how you see the world, Wendy’s cast of family and friends was the ultimate confirmation of this. Those around her were stored in her brain for retrieval as characters in her plays. In return, they often had the misfortune to recognize themselves on stage.

Nevertheless, her charged humor was successful not just because she “wrote what she knew.” If her characters seemed stereotyped, it was only because she had the models in her life: the nagging mother, who wants her daughter to be thin and marry a rich guy; the competitive brother who could not be beat; the gay friends she fell in love with but would never marry (Wasserstein wrote the screenplay for “The Object of My Affection”).

More than any of these, it was the professor who saw her possibilities; the colleagues who made her feel smart; the friends who bolstered her ego; her “husbands” who supported her – if you are lucky, you had at least one of each in your life. But don’t be fooled into thinking you have something in common with her; Wendy Wasserstein was unique.

So – the slow read…Salaman traces recent history in Wendy’s life: John F. Kennedy, Kent State, the Pentagon Papers, the Clinton Presidency, the attack on the World Trade Center. Familiar names of actors, directors, and writers line the narrative – the people and the times who made her who she was, and gave her the material to write. By the end, you may think you know her too.