Through November 19
SISTERS IN LAW Maxine & Robert Seller Theatre/Jewish Repertory Theatre
By Augustine Warner
All it takes is five votes.
However, those might be the toughest five votes anyone can ever count.
That’s what it takes in the current United States Supreme Court to reach a decision.
It can be more although it can’t be fewer.
Getting to those five votes is what Jonathon Shapiro’s “Sisters in Law” is about, the first two SCOTUS female members, Sandra Day O’Connor (Priscilla Young-Anker) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Christina Rausa).
The were very different, O’Connor from Republican politics in Arizona and Bader Ginsburg a dozen years later from Establishment law schools and progressive issues like abortion.
O’Connor rose in a time when she could be openly attacked in law school for taking a Stanford seat away from a man and not be able to get a lawyer job after she graduated high in her class, something she shared with Bader Ginsburg who was a star grad of Columbia Law School.
Then, she spent those years in politics and on the High Court being attacked by her surrounding fellow justices.
Bader Ginsburg’s arrival changed most of that, even with severe ideological differences between the two women.
Shapiro and the Linda Hirshman book on which the play is based show this as a mentor/mentee relationship.
O’Connor was willing to compromise to put together five votes and urged Bader Ginsburg to learn that lesson.
Until the day she died with her robe on, the less senior justice fought for what she wanted, with a refusal to compromise very much.
She could have retired from the court in time to be replaced by a Democratic appointment but chose not to.
“The Notorious R.B.G” was what she was and who she wanted to be and after death has been vilified by some of her original supporters because her replacement was a right-wing woman, Amy Coney Barrett, just as Justice Thurgood Marshall was replaced by Clarence Thomas, a conservative guy.
Both helped solidify a very conservative high court.
The two justices were very different women, O’Connor as a ranch kid who left the Supreme Court to care for a husband descending rapidly into dementia and Baden Ginsburg as an activist cared for by a husband who did the cooking and ran the house and the kids, besides being a lawyer and law professor.
Their professional careers were reflected in the way they dealt with the work of the court, O’Connor as someone who worked her way up in legislative politics and Bader Ginsburg who worked her way up in the Women’s Movement on issues which weren’t popular.
Together, they broke the glass ceiling or an all-male court, starting with O’Connor as the first woman after 202 years.
“Sisters in Law” is getting a wonderful production from the JRT, with strong direction from Josie DiVincenzo on David Dwyer’s set.
The two performers are key to this all working because if the casting isn’t right, it’s not going to work and here it does, with Rausa and Young-Anker.
That’s why “Sisters in Law” is worth seeing, now.
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