A dinner party in an ornate mansion on the fashionable Upper East Side of Manhattan provides the scene for this witty and incisive play. Set in two erasthe early 1900s and our own Gilded Agethe characters move effortlessly from one period to the other. The host, a contemporary master of high-risk arbitrage, steps in and out of character as a robber baron of an earlier time. His guests of today include a Hollywood director, a not-so-cutting-edge sculptor, an online lingerie designer, an aggressive publicist, and an aging historian. Their counterparts from the past are the great man's rebellious son, a grand dame of New York society, the architect who built the mansion originally, and the maids and servants who maintain it.
In this dance of rich storytelling and social commentary, it becomes strikingly clear that while old money has become new, little else has changed over the years. Children still rebel against their controlling parents, women still hope for love, and greed, snobbery, and angst persist.
Still best known for The Heidi Chronicles, which won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize in 1989, Wasserstein is a comic and satirical playwright who has carved out a target area defined by wealth and the rarefied air of privilege. Poking fun at members of the American aristocracy is easy, but Wasserstein also makes us care about them as people. Old Money is no exception. This is a comedy of manners the kind of play that is funny if the manners are bad enough. It is set in fashionable Manhattan during the Gilded Age and in the same place in our own more drab time, with both sets of characters played by the same actors. Here we observe how money changes a family over time. In the past, wealth resulted in architecture, some acquisition of art, parties for which people dressed up, and upstairs-downstairs intrigue. In the present, the same money results in posing, bad taste, awful art, parties for which people dress down, and still a bit of intrigue. Yet there is a strong sense here of life lived fully. Clever, entertaining, and thoughtful. Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State Coll., MA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.