American Daughter

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
By:Wendy Wasserstein
Director:Daniel Sullivan
Sets:John Lee Beatty
Costumes:Jane Greenwood
Lighting:Pat Collins
Sound:Scott Lehrer and Donna Riley
Opened:4/97 at the Cort Theater
Cast:Kate Nelligan, Elizabeth Marvel, Lynne Thigpen, Peter Riegert, Bruce Norris, Cotter Smith, Hal Holbrook, Penny Fuller, Andrew Dolan and Peter Benson

Audiences have come to expect a certain kind of theater experience from playwright Wendy Wasserstein, who pens lovingly crafted, mordantly witty family sagas with a feminist bite. Unfortunately, her latest effort flounders under weighty political themes, convoluted relationships and an overdramatic plot. Even her sharp ear for dialogue and well-paced direction can't save star Nelligan, whose formidable talent languishes in the role of Lyssa Dent Hughes, a brilliant doctor and loving wife and mother. There's talk that Lyssa may become surgeon general, a career opportunity that immediately thrusts her into the hot lights of the media. Her Georgetown clique comprises topically correct archetypes — a black Jewish oncologist in her 40s (Thigpen) who's trying to conceive a baby, a young conservative gay man (Norris), an academic husband (Riegert) in the throes of midlife crisis and a second-generation feminist (Marvel). Holbrook even makes an appearance as Lyssa's senator father. Despite this credible cast, the relationships never ring true, and the chilling acts of betrayal that ensue lack motivation, thereby stripping them of any dramatic significance. In the end, it's simply banal sound bites and meandering social commentary.

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