Old Money

Lara Jenny

Wendy Wasserstein’s superb writing makes her latest play, Old Money, more compelling to read than most contemporary novels. Old Money concerns a Manhattan mansion and the families that inhabit it at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Pfeiffers are nineteenth-century industrialists who have grown rich off the sweat of miners and steelworkers. The twentieth-century Bernsteins owe their wealth to the world of high finance. Each of the patriarchs holds a dinner party, and each actor plays two parts: guests in the two time periods, who resemble each other. Despite the title, the play is concerned with new money and the inevitable crassness that accompanies it. And in both centuries the younger generation rebels: the sons of both Pfeiffer and Bernstein yearn for a life of passion and creativity. The plot is complex and wonderfully entertaining, and the pairs of characters brilliantly mirror each other’s behaviour and sometimes interact with each other between the centuries. Through this theatrical time travel, the characters manage to avert a long-ago tragedy.

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