“Heidi High, Heidi Low”
A quarter of a century ago, in November 1988, the late Wendy Wasserstein’s topical comedy about the early decades of women’s lib, THE HEIDI CHRONICLES, opened Off Broadway, becoming so successful it moved in March 1989 to Broadway. It won the Tony (a first for a female dramatist) and the Pulitzer, among other awards, and was named one of the 1988-1989 season’s Ten Best Plays. Now, with Elisabeth Moss of TV’s “Mad Men” as Heidi, a role originally played by Joan Allen, the play is getting its first New York revival, and it appears the bloom is off the rose.
|From left: Tracee Chimo, Leighton Bryant, Elise Kibler, Photo: Joan Marcus.|
|From left: Ali Ahn, Leighton Bryant, Elise Kibler. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
The play’s two acts and thirteen scenes shift swiftly on the cleverly flexible turntable set designed by John Lee Beatty, abetted by excellent projection design from Peter Nigrini. After the prologues that begin each act showing Heidi giving a slide lecture, we follow her life from a high school dance in 1965 to 1989, when, unwed, she lives alone with her newly adopted baby. The action progresses, with each scene set several years after the preceding one, and with golden oldies setting the tone (“It’s In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Respect,” “Imagine,” “You Send Me,” etc.). Jill BC Du Boff is responsible for the fine sound design (loved those pre-Power Point slide projector clicks).
|From left: Tracee Chimo, Jason Biggs, Elisabeth Moss, Bryce Pinkham. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
Heidi’s principal male friends—both of them inveterate talkers—are Peter Patrone (Bryce Pinkham), whom she meets at that high school dance, and Scoop Rosenbaum (Jason Biggs), who, during her college years, comes on to her at a Eugene McCarthy rally in New Hampshire. Peter, who becomes an important pediatrician, is gay and thus—despite his and Heidi’s deep mutual affection—romantically unavailable. The super-smart but smugly superior Scoop, a lawyer, progresses from political radicalism to commercial success as the publisher of a popular lifestyle magazine. Peter’s homosexuality is an important side issue, especially given the play’s appearance during the height of the 1980s AIDS epidemic. Scoop, despite his seeming compatibility with Heidi, who loves him, marries the less challenging Memphis belle, Lisa Friedlander (Leighton Bryan), since Heidi refuses to compromise her ambitions for a husband’s needs. Heidi, unable to have it all, achieves professional but not personal fulfillment.
|Elisabeth Moss, Jason Biggs. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
|Tracee Chimo, Ali Ahn. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
|From left: Ali Ahn, Elisabeth Moss, Elise Kibler. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
Bryce Pinkham, so brilliant in A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER, brings too much musical comedy energy and mugging to the role of the gay pediatrician, while Jason Biggs makes an acceptable if not particularly charismatic Scoop. Apart from Ms. Ahn, the remaining cast members—Ms. Chimo, Ms. Bryant, Elise Kibler, and Andy Truschinski—play multiple roles, several of them well done, but others overacted.
Heidi high, Heidi low.
The Music Box
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