Gag hag

Playwright, essayist, and screenwriter Wendy Wasserstein recently admitted in an Advocate interview that she's fallen in love with more than one gay man during her lifetime.

Of course, this was to promote her deliriously witty screenplay for The Object of My Affection, the story of a straight woman who falls in love with a gay man. But Wasserstein has always seemed inordinately sympathetic to male homosexuals. Take a spin through her essay collection Bachelor Girls, or watch the gay characters in her two most famous plays, The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosensweiz, deliver supportive hugs and deadly one-liners in rapid-fire succession.

There's a description for a woman who enjoys constant camaraderie with gay men--actually, there are several, but names like "fruit fly" aren't as popular as "fag hag." Since some consider it a scrappy street compliment and others a double-shot of misogyny and homophobia, we'll refrain from labeling the very accomplished Wasserstein thus. But how do you describe all those gay men who are drawn to her Brooklyn brand of humanitarianism and the uncanny bull's-eyes about disappointing romances in her dialogue?

More than any other writer who has undertaken the task of defining her generation's female experience, Wasserstein seems in touch with her male side. We imagine that the interaction between her two halves sounds a lot like the banter in Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon's shared writing office when they were weaving all the silken bon mots that would slide around movie audiences of the '40s. The Object of My Affection, before it settles into its group hug of an ending, is filled with the champagne-glass trills of such patter. Far superior, some insist, to Wasserstein's Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Heidi Chronicles, The Object of My Affection finds Wasserstein exerting a craftswoman's discipline on her stellar wit. Who else could make the repeated appearance of an eye-nose-and-throat doctor funnier the third time?

Arts & Letters Live presents Wendy Wasserstein at 7:30 p.m. May 4 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. The show is sold-out, but released tickets will likely be available. Call (214) 922-1220.

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Jimmy Fowler