Richard and I saw this play on Broadway on 3/2. It won Wendy Wasserstein the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for best play in 1989, this is the first Broadway revival. It’s the story of Heidi Holland, an art historian who specializes in female painters before the 20th century. The other two main characters are the men in her life - - her best friend Peter, a gay pediatrician, and her sometime lover Scoop, a cad, journalist, entrepreneur, etc. The play moves from the 60s to the present day, aka the late 80s.
It was lots of fun, we enjoyed it a lot, as did the rest of the audience. But it missed the mark, and it’s hard to tell whether the problem was with the play or with the production. The only real problem with the production was the pacing, which was decidedly sluggish. The director, Pat McKinnon, also directed *A Delicate Balance*, and the leisurely, pause-ridden pace that brought that play to life is a sedative for this one. I’m not saying it should be madcap, but she could easily shave fifteen minutes off the show and it would be much stronger. One other thing I didn’t like about the production, and this is a quibble: she used video projections during the scene changes, to show the shift forward in time - - Tylenol commercials, newspaper headlines, Jimmy Carter giving the State of the Nation, etc. This technique is used in every TV movie and made-for-CNN special, and it’s lazy and tired.
The real question: is *The Heidi Chronicles* a period piece, or just plain dated? It felt like the play that’s running across the street from *The Normal Heart*. The play has a funny point of view: it wants to pack in the nostalgia for the 60s (Eugene McCarthy, “The Shoop Shoop Song”) but also be “current” (“having it all”, AIDS). The problem is that “current” is the late 80s, which is now more nostalgia.
Elizabeth Moss (of *The West Wing* and *Mad Men*) did a great job as Heidi, but jeez, that woman is a doormat. She needs to stop championing female painters who died 200 years ago and start championing herself. The play is about her but all the best lines are given to the other characters, and she never really does anything very interesting. Jason Biggs (the leading man from the *American Pie* franchise) was a bit of a place-holder as the cad. Richard put it perfectly: he’s the second-most talented guy in your high school. Is this the best the producers could do? Bryce Pinkham (who Richard and I loved as the leading man in *A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder*) gave the best performance in what is admittedly the best role, the gay pediatrician, Heidi’s best friend. He’s given the best lines and also has the most depth.