Wendy Wasserstein's debut play, directed by Merrily Mossman and Steven Robman, is brought to hilarious life in this finely cast production starring Swoosie Kurtz, Jill Eikenberry, and Meryl Streep. Setting the play in 1970 at Mount Holyoke College, Wasserstein focuses on six young women who are about to graduate and go out into a world newly sensitized to feminist goals. Caught between traditional values of home, hearth, and finding a husband, and sexual liberation, women's liberation, and personal liberation, these women are on the cusp of a whole new way of life. The play opens a few years after graduation as the women meet to reminisce about their lives in college, where "milk-and-crackers" teas and "gracious living" have dominated.
Filmed on location, the play dramatically illustrates every aspect of life in a women's college in 1970. An Emily Dickinson-reading "housemother" works to make these students into "ladies" while they explore options never before open to them. Both sympathetic and satiric, the author also includes discussions of Women's History courses, snapshots of Father-Daughter Weekend, and interactions among the various women as they explore who they are and who they will become. Swoosie Kurtz, as Rita, is the dominant figure in the action, a promiscuous and iconoclastic woman who wants to write the great American novel and who refuses to bend to convention.
In contrast to her is Streep, playing a minor role as Leilah, a shy student who plans to study anthropology in Iraq after graduation. Other characters include Jill Eikenberry, as Kate, who plans to attend law school; Ann McDonough as Samantha, who is in love and believes her primary role is to be as wife and mother; Alma Cuervo as Holly Kaplan, who is not sure what she wants her role to be; and Ellen Parker as Muffet, who becomes "partly liberated" but has yet to define her ultimate goals. Throughout the play, the voice of Anthony Scourby narrates a promotional film for the college, illustrating the gap between what is real (as we see it onstage) and what is ideal (as we hear the college PR).
Wonderfully poignant pictures of the social, sexual, and personal conflicts faced by these bright students in 1970 evolve as the students fumblingly make the transition between traditional expectations and unlimited possibilities. The humor is broad but to the point, and anyone who has attended a similar college in the same time period will identify with the conflicts experienced by these "uncommon women" on the cusp of true "liberation." Mary Whipple
on March 16, 2006
A play that takes you into the distorted world of a women's college, circa 1970, but still relevant to today in its main themes...Although the language has been somewhat cleaned up - the F word edited out, among others - it's a wonderfully fast excursion into the wit and mind of the beloved Wendy Wasserstein, and one not to be missed...Think of it as what Seinfeld would have looked like without men, and then add large doses of richly observed and well-acted scenes from a young and brilliant Meryl Streep, and a fresh Jill Eikenberry, and a fabulously lithe Swoosie Kurtz, nicely shot to give you its sense of being a play for the stage...H
I've been an avid supporter of the Broadway Theater Archives DVD collection for many years and have invested countless dollars into individual productions as they have been released. They are a fantastic way for new enthusiasts to embrace these one-of-a-kind performances. For the most part, the Broadway Theater Archives has saved televised interpretations of famous plays and musicals. These versions can vary somewhat from the original stage productions (some more than others), but oftentimes have enormous historical value from a dramatic and/or casting standpoint. Theatrical productions are rarely preserved for posterity, so I embrace the legacy of these TV releases. Not only can they expose new viewers to classic works with top notch casts, they are also a true part of television history as well.
Uncommon Women & Others (1979 Great Performances Production): If you haven't had your Meryl Streep fix lately, here she is again in the Wendy Wasserstein estrogen fueled classic. The simple setting of this production allows for lively verbal interplay as five college friends reminisce over lunch about their days at Mount Holyoke. Approaching a certain age, they evaluate their choices and idealize their youth. We see staged flashbacks depicting the college era and see how life has thwarted the expectations of those days. Aside from Streep, LA Law's Jill Eikenberry is on hand and the invaluable Swoosie Kurtz virtually steals the show in a brash and hilarious performance. Sweet, wistful, and a little sad, this is one of Wasserstein's best.
I love seeing these classics and wanted to encourage a new crop of theater lovers to discover them as well. KGHarris, 8/14.
on April 24, 2006
I caught this on PBS this weekend and was quite impressed. Despite its *very* dated appearance, it drew me in immediately with its wit - it made me sad again at Wendy Wasserstein's untimely death. But it was not just funny - the characters felt real and you could sympathize with their ambitions and ultimately their unfulfilled desires. I would recommend to any fan of Wasserstein, esp. as this is probably the only chance you will get to actually see the play performed.
Incidentally, I noticed in my copy of the play (published with The Heidi Chronicles) that the PBS version was all of the original cast, except Meryl Streep's role was originally performed on stage by Glenn Close.
on March 18, 2013
I LOVE this play.
It first came out right about at the time when I was choosing a college. I saw it as an affirmation of choosing the only women's college that was available to me... which was nonetheless EXCELLENT in chemistry, my chosen field of study.
More to the point, though- we WERE "uncommon women", and attending a college that did not sideline us in favor of the boys was so important! I regret that my own daughter has not had that experience.
As far as the play goes- I knew instances of ALL these women. At one point a local theater group put it on, and a whole bunch of us bought tickets and attended.
I wish popular culture had moved enough past it in these past 25-30 years to make many of the dilemmas irrelevant. But I love it, and for younger women- well, this is a snapshot. I'm going to make my daughter watch it next time she visits.
on December 29, 2013
I saw this play when it originally aired on PBS and have always appreciated it. I do not find it a "distorted" view of that age and time, but very resonant. I recently bought the DVD. It's as I remember, except that in the original, the play disclosed that Leilah was having an affair with one of the fathers of the group, which explained her aloofness. Does anyone else remember this? Was it edited out?
on September 24, 2007
Wendy Wasserstein's "Uncommon Women and Others" is a small film with big performances--all of the actresses shine in this memory play about five women reminiscing about their college days. The cast includes Jill Eikenberry (who went on to TV's "L.A. Law"), the delightful Swoosie Kurtz (who plays the delightful Rita) and Meryl Streep (who you all know and who is, of course, wonderful in a supporting role). Besides Ms. Kurtz's scene-stealing performance, two others stood out for me--Cynthia Herman as the bubbly Susie Friend, who likes to celebrate Piglet's birthday (I guess you had to be there), and Alma Cuervo as Holly, whose telephone call to a man she's got a crush on while James Taylor sings is the highlight of the movie--at least it was for me. I felt like hiding under Holly's raccoon coat, too, after that emotional scene. So if you want to see some great acting by some amazing actresses, I highly recommend that you join these uncommon women for "milk and crackers" and enjoy.
on July 5, 2015
i love this movie, saw it years ago on the 11th hour, have it saved on vhs but needed it on dvd player we dont have a vhs player anymore,
on April 18, 2016
This is a forgotten gem of a film. Alma Cuervo's performance was masterful. Streep and Kurtz were also great, as expected.
on March 7, 2009
I saw this when it first was broadcast on PBS channel 13 in NY back in 1978.I loved the story line & the great cast of characters,wonderful acting,all the cast members shone through this masterpiece of writing.I was surprised that it was actually on DVD,had it on VHS from a tape that I had made from a rebroadcast on PBS but had lost it.Thank you Wendy Wasserstein.