A new cast takes easy occupancy of “The Sisters Rosensweig,” and if the show has a balance that was heretofore lacking, it misses the standout performances and audience-pleasing highs of the previous incarnation. Business certainly won’t evaporate, but competition from next month’s onslaught of new fall fare could take its toll.
As the icy sister alienated from her Jewish roots, Michael Learned pegs Sara Goode’s chilliness even if she does miss Jane Alexander’s more shaded, regal tones. Joanne Camp brings a strength to the vagabond journalist Pfeni that neither of the previous actresses who played her had, and Tom Hewitt as her bisexual boyfriend, a British legit director, captures the character’s charm despite a tendency to mug.
Two roles have been toned down quite noticeably, and the results are mixed. Hal Linden wears the role of Mervyn Kant, the Bronx-born faux furrier smitten by the standoffish Sara, quite comfortably. His is a less rumpled, less rough around the edges performance than Robert Klein’s, a choice that undercuts some of the comic possibilities but creates a more plausible match for the sophisticated Sara.
And while Linda Lavin gives a sturdy performance as middle sister Gorgeous Teitelbaum, a suburban housewife-turned-radio shrink, she never equals the flaky humor or heartfelt pathos that made Madeline Kahn’s turn the show’s knockout. Lavin plays the role with a harsher edge, not uncalled for but wanting Kahn’s offbeat charm.
Amy Ryan comes up even shorter — much shorter — as Sara’s daughter Tess, overplaying the character’s anger at the expense of any warmth. Brian F. O’Byrne and Rex Robbins are fine in their smaller roles.