Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Uneven Retelling of a Woman's Journey

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Uneven Retelling of a Woman's Journey

Article excerpt

"The Heidi Chronicles" is still smart and funny, but the revival that opened on Thursday night at the Music Box Theatre suggests it isn't as strong a play as it seemed in its original, prize-sweeping 1989 Broadway production.

Wendy Wasserstein's rueful comedy is about Heidi Holland (Elisabeth Moss of "Mad Men"), an art historian, whom we follow on the nation's tumultuous journey from the idealism of the 1960s to the self-centeredness of the '80s.

The playwright is at her best in chronicling the eras' social and political rites, which she does with a combination of satire and affection: Young true believers shivering in New Hampshire on behalf of Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign; a women's consciousness- raising session, with group hugs and fervent validation; a demonstration on behalf of ignored female artists; and a TV show with an air-headed interviewer pursuing the essence of the baby- boomer generation. ("The kids who grew up in the '50s, protested in the '60s, were the me's of the '70s and the parents of the '80s.")

As Heidi passes through these years, increasingly successful as an academic and a writer, she carries around a sense of sadness, a feeling of insecurity, and the reason never quite comes into focus.

It's suggested she feels betrayed by the feminist movement.

In a vivid monologue near the play's end, she describes a sense of alienation from the women she encounters at the gym: "I feel stranded. And I thought the whole point was that we wouldn't feel stranded. I thought the point was we were all in this together."

But, in fact, Heidi was always more a sympathetic observer than a participant in the various crusades, wary about slogans and over- simplification.

So, then, her problem must be personal.

In the original production, Joan Allen created a sense of Heidi as a woman of considerable depth and honesty whose individuality led to difficulties in fully clicking with other people.

While not fully explanatory, that allowed us to accept her issues as an aspect of her personality.

But Moss gives us a much less complex Heidi -- a sweet, reserved, vaguely troubled woman.

That allows another, cruder explanation to fill the void: She's unhappy because she doesn't have a man. …

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