Her characters and their dilemmas were instantly recognizable, partly because they had so much of her in them. "Uncommon Women" is about the reunion of a group of friends from Mount Holyoke College (where she went to school) after six years. In her 1983 play "Isn’t It Romantic," a single writer spars with her Jewish parents, whose fondest wish is for her to tell them one day, "I just got married, lost 20 pounds and became a lawyer." "The Heidi Chronicles"which ran two years on Broadway and won both a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prizetraces 20 years in the life of an art historian who goes her own unattached way and winds up adopting a child. (Wasserstein herself would become a single mother in 1999.)
She went on to write about competitive siblings ("The Sisters Rosensweig"), women in politics ("An American Daughter") and, in her latest play, "Third," a liberal college professor’s confrontation with a privileged WASP student. Her work, I must admit, didn’t always satisfy mesettling, I thought, too often for easy one-liners, pop references and sitcom characters to win over the audience. But she was indispensable. When she came on the scene, prominent women playwrights were a rarity; today, women like Rebecca Gilman ("Boy Gets Girl"), Suzan-Lori Parks ("Topdog/Underdog") and Lynn Nottage ("Intimate Apparel") are among the most exciting and original voices in theater. Wendy Wasserstein helped make them possible.