The Heidi Chronicles at Arena Stage
Having the show up and a full two weeks before I start rehearsals for my next two means I can actually see what’s up at other theaters. Last week I saw three shows (four if you count the one at work), this week I think just one but maybe two. I’ll try to work my way through all of them on the blog. Tuesday night I went on a early mother’s day theater date to see The Heidi Chronicles. A play I had read years ago but never gotten the chance to see. Seeing it with my mother felt just right as the story is focused on the women of her generation.
“You’re the one this is all going to matter to” Scoop tells Heidi in the late 1960s thus setting up Wendy Wasserstein’s look back at the women’s rights movement. Heidi is the embodiment of every woman. She came of age in a time when the world seemed on the brink of major change. Heidi was going to get it right. She was going to be successful. She was going to fall in love. She was going to be the new woman. She was on the path to disappointment. If Heidi stands for the new woman, Scoop is the new man taking advantage of her. He is all of the macho manliness of the past but somehow still exudes false sensitivity. The story of The Heidi Chronicles could be how easily women are taken in. But by the end of the play Heidi has realized she isn’t the one it’s important to. She realizes the baby boomer’s may be the one initiating the changes but they aren’t the ones who are going to reap the benefits.
I want to love the script. Wendy’s humor and lightheartedness shines in the banter. As does her sharp eye for social critique. Yet there is something about it that doesn’t quite work for me. Much of the text is expository. With the scenes skipping decades quickly there is a lot of catch up to do. It is hard to get around the ‘for the past five years I’ve been in London’ and the ‘while you were gone I…’ but I still am frustrated by them.
But watching Arena’s production I actually was rather emotional. But my emotions had little to do with the play. Wendy’s death struck me hard while watching. I was deeply saddened by her death when I first heard about it. The first post-college show I worked with her on was the premiere of her plays Welcome to My Rash and Third. But despite the sadness it did not hit me deeply until watching the play. It seemed unfinished. I wished that she could continue it, telling the story of women in the twenty-first century. In the Heidi Chronicle’s Wendy left the future of feminism to Heidi’s adopted daughter. In real life Wendy left behind her own young daughter. And an empty space. A void. A silence. There are so few female playwrights out there. And none with her insight and humor. I wonder if there is anyone who will be able to tell the women of my generation’s story.