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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Music Box Theatre


  Tracee Chimo, Jason Biggs, Elisabeth Moss, and Bryce Pinkham/ Ph: Joan Marcus

“I’ve never been what I’d call a happy girl. Too prissy. Too caustic,” says Heidi Holland, the whip-smart, never-satisfied art historian towards the end of Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Heidi Chronicles, which chronicles the 20-year history of its title character as well as the first decades of the feminist movement.

That these words are spoken in the play’s first Broadway revival, now at the Music Box Theatre, by the accomplished and appealing actress Elisabeth Moss is a bit of a double-edged sword. They could easily be spoken by Moss’ famed TV alter ego, ad woman Peggy Moss (of AMC’s Mad Men). While Heidi is about 10 years younger than Peggy, there’s often a sense that we’re watching the next chapter of Peggy’s life, giving a dash of “contemporary” relevance to a play that, for all of its strengths, too often seems stuck in its own time period.

Indeed, Pam MacKinnon’s production, with its many scene changes punctuated by era-appropriate music (as dictated by Wasserstein) and television footage, can feel like a documentary, especially to those theatergoers (like me) who lived through the show’s time frame (1965-1989). Still, while some viewers may find Heidi to be mostly an exercise in nostalgia – a look back at how far we have (and have not) come socially – I think younger audience members will find the revival valuable in explaining how we got here from there. All the predictable bases are covered (including AIDS and gay rights), and Wasserstein stresses the still-unsolved dilemma of how/if women can “have it all” – all the while giving us a bevy of brilliant one-liners and philosophical passages along with a fair measure of bold, blunt statements.

To make the play work fully, a pitch-perfect group of actors goes a long way. And MacKinnon, who has so stunningly cast such Broadway plays as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Clybourne Park, comes close to batting a thousand, starting with Moss, who has to navigate a character who, for much of the two-act drama, seems more observer than participant. Tony nominee Bryce Pinkham invests the role of Heidi’s gay best friend, super-successful pediatrician Peter Patrone, with all the appropriate colors of empathy and bitchery, self-loathing and self-confidence, and melancholy and mirth. Unfortunately, as Heidi’s on-again-off-again lover, Scoop Rosenbaum, Jason Biggs simply lacks the sexual charisma needed for us to believe that Heidi would basically put her life on hold for him, coming off instead as a smart guy, and perhaps just a little too nice.

The show’s supporting cast members are all excellently chosen, from Ali Ahn as Heidi’s best friend Susan to Leighton Bryan, Elise Kibler and Andy Truschinski (all of whom convincingly play multiple roles). But no one can match the hilarious Tracee Chimo, who practically walks off with every scene she’s in, whether she’s portraying the forthright lesbian Fran, the ditzy talk show host April or the slightly envious married gal Betsy. If Wasserstein were still alive, I suspect she might be writing a new play just for this ultra-gifted comic performer. And just maybe, there would be a new chapter in Heidi’s chronicles, one that might move me more than this show does it is in its current incarnation.


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