‘The Heidi Chronicles’ at The Music Box Theatre

In 1989 Wendy Wasserstein’s play hit Broadway hard,  dealing with her fervent feelings about women’s liberation which began with her graduation from high school just as the 1960s were rolling in. She begins the play at that graduation, and the first act concerns itself with her emergence as a woman, along with her growing awareness that she had found her cause. Others felt the same way; black civil rights, the Vietnam War and Women’s Lib were all in the headlines during that turbulent decade. She was certainly an aware supporter of most civic causes, but as she attains prominence as an art historian, the group she gathered to march protested for  “More Women In Art,” demanding  the imbalance between women and men in that area be corrected.

Ali Ahn as Susan Johnston, Leighton Bryan as Lisa & Elise Kibler as Denise in 'The Heidi Chronicles.' Photo by Joan Marcus.
Ali Ahn as Susan Johnston, Leighton Bryan as Lisa, and Elise Kibler as Denise in ‘The Heidi Chronicles.’ Photo by Joan Marcus.

She called  her play The Heidi Chronicles, for the first act takes us, in a series of scenes, into the mating game when again she finds she and her best friend Susan have a different approach to mixing and mingling. Her friend is happy to pick up her skirts and fly into the adventurous nights; she is not, and finds herself falling for the self-deprecating, bright, and very loving Peter Petrone who seeks her, but only  as a friend and confidant. In the moving second act, she comes to terms with Peter and cherishes him as he grows into a very useful pediatric doctor.

“Scoop Rosenberg” is another suitor who sets his cap for her, but ultimately turns toward a more sensible match with a woman whose yin is more akin to  his yang. Peter, Scoop, and Susan form the rocks on which Heidi’s personal life rests, as she emerges as a grown  woman. In her address to a gathering of her high school’s alumni, she seems to take eloquently off the cuff, so very  honestly, about the loneliness and satisfaction in living this life on one’s particular terms, with respect and even admiration for those who might make more conventional choices.

The current production, now playing at the Music Box Theatre has been directed by Pam McKinnon with a deft and unhurried hand. For starters, she’s assembled an absolutely first-rate cast to defang the very rare cliche, the over extended joke, but always we return to the humor, the truth, the fearlessness in Wasserstein’s best work, of which this is surely an example.

Elisabeth Moss and Jason Biggs. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Elisabeth Moss and Jason Biggs. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Elizabeth Moss as Heidi, proves an actress of great range, particularly if you consider the stretch she offers between her character on Mad Men and this tender, charming and determined Heidi Holland. Her gentlemen callers, Peter Petrone as played by the brilliant Bryce Pinkham (in which he played the murderer in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) and Scoop Rosenbaum who is refreshingly blunt but appealing as he is handed to us in the capable hands of Jason Biggs, new to me, recently spotted on Netflix’s series “Orange is the New Black.”

The new Broadway seems to be a series of beautifully mounted, impeccably cast revivals of former successes. New plays are the backbone of off Broadway now. Only the occasional new light comedy with a popular star or six (Fish in the Dark, It’s Only A Play)  is making the grade on the Main Stem, but revivals like this one are welcome, and flooding the Broadway box offices. Yes, 14-18 weeks of “limited engagements” are the new long runs but packed houses and happy audiences for four or five months is probably doing the trick for all the concerned parties. So — hello, from New York!


The Heidi Chronicles is playing at the Music Box Theatre – 239 West 45th Street, in New York, NY. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200, or purchase them online.


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Richard Seff
RICHARD SEFF has been working in theatre since he made his acting debut in support of Claude Rains in the prize winning DARKNESS AT NOON, and he agreed to tour the next season in support of Edward G. Robinson, which took him across the nation and back for nine months. When it was over and he was immediately offered another national tour with THE SHRIKE with Van Heflin, he decided to explore other areas, and he spent the next 22 years representing artists in the theatre as an agent, where he worked at Liebling-Wood, MCA, eventually a partnership of his own called Hesseltine-Bookman and Seff, where he discovered and developed young talents like Chita Rivera, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Ron Field, Linda Lavin, Nancy Dussault and many others. He ultimately sold his interest to ICM. When he completed his contractual obligation to that international agency, he returned to his first love, acting and writing for the theatre. In that phase of his long and varied life, he wrote a comedy (PARIS IS OUT!) which brightened the 1970 season on Broadway for 107 performances. He became a successful supporting player in film, tv and onstage, and ultimately wrote a book about his journey, SUPPORTING PLAYER: MY LIFE UPON THE WICKED STAGE, still popular with older theatre lovers and youngsters who may not yet know exactly where they will most sensibly and profitably fit into the world of show business. The book chronicles a life of joyous work working in a favored profession in many areas, including leading roles in the regional theatres in his work in Lanford Wilson's ANGELS FALL. His last stage role was in THE COUNTESS in which he played Mr. Ruskin for 9 months off Broadway. Five seasons ago Joel Markowitz suggested he join him at DCTheatreScene. His accurate and readable reviews of the New York Scene led, when the time was right, for his joining DCMetroTheaterArts to continue bringing news of the Big Apple's productions just to keep you posted. He is delighted to be able to join DCMTA and work with Joel and hopes that you like what he has to say.


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