The Heidi Chronicles is one of Wendy Wasserstein’s most famous plays which garnered her both a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Wasserstein drew deeply on her own life while crafting her plays, casting a light on her insecurities and struggles. In The Heidi Chronicles, we follow Heidi Holland as she tries to find her place in the world. It begins at a dance in her teens where she meets her long time best gay boyfriend Peter Patrone, through her tumultuous long term failed love affair with Scoop Rosenbaum, and finally rests in her 40’s where she chooses to adopt a baby solo. All the while, we watch the ups and downs of her career as an art historian, and bear witness to the changing political and feminist landscape.
This play was written in the late 80’s and much Heidi feels dated. The struggles women faced then are much different than they are now. It is not uncommon that women remain single, adopt babies on their own, and choose career over family life, whereas back then it was still viewed as a feminine failure to not find Mr. Right. Wasserstein personally struggled with the fact that although she had a very successful career, in her mother’s eyes she was a failure because she remained fat and single. The heart and the humour of this play still resonates however.
This production is visually sleek. Erika Connor’s costume design is sublime as she takes the characters from the 1960’s to the early 1990’s. She chooses bold, bright colors and gorgeous lines that complement the various characters. Equally impressive is Verne Goods’ sound design and composition. He chose the perfect upbeat numbers that quickly placed us in the appropriate era. I also loved director Gregory Prest’s choice to have the characters do fun dance numbers as they transitioned from scene to scene. Ken Mackenzie’s set and lighting design complete the dynamic staging of the show.
Wasserstein’s choice to have the main character Heidi give art lectures while exploring famous and under-appreciated female artists is both interesting, and a solid device to move the script along.
Overall the acting was solid, although at times the actors veered from naturalism to over the top renderings which didn’t seem necessary. Michelle Monteith and Jordan Pettle do particularly strong work in the seduction scene at a Eugene McCarthy rally in the first act, as do Monteith and Damien Atkins in the hospital scene in the second half. My favorite character of the night hands down was Laura Condlln as the lesbian, feminist Fran. She was absolutely hysterical. Condlln was spot on, from her funny dance moves, her jerky body movements and her gravelly voice.
The Heidi Chronicles’ first act was tight and had good flow and seemed to clip along, the second act however became overly long and drawn out. There is much I enjoyed about the show but I wish Wasserstein had wrapped it up more quickly.
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