Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Heidi Chronicles (The Music Box)

By Harry Forbes

So how well does Wendy Wasserstein’s 1988 Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner, with its feminist heroine striving to be her own woman and to find happiness in a male-dominated world, hold up all these liberated years later?

I believe very well indeed. As the play begins in 1989 but then segues into a series of flashbacks going back to 1965, we're still able to view this as a history piece, albeit from a later vantage point than audiences in the late 1980s.

Pam MacKinnon’s clear-eyed revival with its excellent cast includes a very appealing Elizabeth Moss as the eponymous art historian heroine who is more observer than participant through the decades; Jason Biggs as her egotistical but paradoxically likable boyfriend whom she meets at a 1968 Eugene McCarthy rally and who later becomes a successful magazine editor; and Bryce Pinkham as her caustic gay friend who becomes a prominent pediatrician, and a marvelously versatile supporting cast including Ali Ahn as her ambitious girlfriend, and Leighton Bryan, Tracee Chimo, and Elise Kibler as Heidi’s various girlfriends.

Moss creates a very sympathetic protagonist, and really shines in her late second act monologue as she addresses a high school class wherein, after apologizing for not having a prepared script, she expresses, in a very public breakdown, her acute sense of abandonment despite all the camaraderie promised by the women’s movement.

John Lee Beatty has done his usual solid designs, and his white walled set for the 12 scenes allows a profusion of imaginative projections (courtesy of Peter Nigrini) which, along with the period music, further emphasizes the vintage structure of the piece, avoiding any sense of its being outdated.

(The Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45th Street; or 212- 239-6200)

Photo: Joan Marcus
l.-r.: Tracee Chimo, Jason Biggs, Elisabeth Moss, and Bryce Pinkham
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