The Heidi Chronicles: Theater review by Adam Feldman
There is much to be said for plays that speak directly to their historical moments, but what becomes of them when the present becomes the past? Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles has always been backward-looking: It traces the journey of its heroine, feminist art historian Heidi Holland (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss), through nearly 25 years of American cultural shifts, from the idealism of the 1960s through the self-centeredness of the late 1980s. The play’s first Broadway revival, directed by Pam MacKinnon, offers consistent (if mild) good humor in its survey of the challenges faced by door-opening women like Heidi: "Interesting, exemplary, even sexy, but basically unhappy,” as her boorishly savvy ex-boyfriend Scoop (American Pie's Jason Biggs) describes them. Now that we are 25 years away from the play’s once-current finale, however, the pulse on which Wasserstein had her finger sounds fainter.
In this episodic, observational play, Heidi is mostly presented as a wry observer, often on the sidelines of her own story. (In a morning-TV interview scene, she can’t get a word in over her male friends.) Absent a strong plot to push the story beyond its topical zone, the emphasis falls more heavily on the characters, but the central performances lack toughness. Moss is appealing but nebulous; Biggs doesn’t progress beyond harmless fratboy patter, and Bryce Pinkham is flutey and affected as Heidi’s gay best friend. Although the play’s overall concerns remain relevant, its points have lost some sharpness. It feels interesting, exemplary, but basically nonurgent.
Music Box Theatre (see Broadway). By Wendy Wasserstein. Directed by Pam MacKinnon. With Elisabeth Moss, Jason Biggs, Bryce Pinkham. Running time: 2hrs 35mins. One intermission.
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