Wendy Wasserstein’s feminist drama has aged surprisingly well. Mad Men‘s Elizabeth Moss plays Heidi Holland, an art historian who has, broadly speaking, been more successful in her career than her life. From the perspective of 1989, she looks back on bright promises of her generation, the “baby boomers”, with mixed feelings.
The feminism Wasserstein expresses in The Heidi Chronicles isn’t particularly radical – Heidi makes a point several times throughout the show that she never burned a bra. Rather, the play examines the hopes and dreams made possible by the “consciousness raising” and political protest of the ’60s and ’70s.
Moss is ideally cast as Heidi, who’s sort of a more intellectual younger cousin to Peggy Olsen, Moss’s Mad Men character. Moss’s performance ranges from wryly engaging – especially when speaking about the women artists who are Heidi’s specialty – to achingly touching.
I’ve been following rising star Tracee Chimo since her early off-off-Broadway work, and it’s really a joy to follow her going from strength to strength. Chimo plays four sharply distinct characters; I particularly enjoyed her portrayals of both the play’s most radical character (a ’60s lesbian activist) and its most mainstream (an ’80s talk show maven). She’s one of the real treasures of New York theatre.
Also terrific are Jason Biggs as the smart but patriarchal Scoop – the man Heidi can’t quite shake – and Bryce Pinkham as her gay best friend Peter – the man Heidi couldn’t ever have, but truly loves. Pam MacKinnon’s direction is penetrating and precise, bracing and brisk, with a very small number of missteps where playing things broader would have been better. Highly recommended.
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To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.