Theater

Heidi Like Me Now? The Heidi Chronicles’ Timely Return

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Unlike many baby-boomer sagas, Wendy Wasserstein’s clear-eyed 1988 play The Heidi Chronicles doesn’t ignore that generation’s failings and self-regard in favor of its rebellions. A new Broadway revival directed by Pam MacKinnon is that rare star-adorned production that transcends the gawk factor, delivering a timely reminder that we still live in a boomer-dominated world.

Wasserstein’s script echoes the slides Heidi Holland (an understated but effective Elisabeth Moss) shows us early on: She’s an art historian who studies neglected female painters. The play time-travels from the 1960s to the 1980s, evoking a transforming America through the lens of Heidi’s evolving feminist consciousness. Wasserstein invigorates decade-defining landmarks — doo-wop dances, consciousness-raising groups, power lunches — with irony and humanity, illustrating how Sixties radicalism sometimes ceded to Eighties greed.

And she’s honest about the cost of breaking new political paths: Heidi’s devotion to her principles leads her to tread a lonely road. Meanwhile her former lover, sometime nemesis, and doppelgänger Scoop (Jason Biggs) pursues professional success with the unfettered freedom afforded him by male privilege.

The play leaves us on the verge of the 1990s with no clear idea about how American society can allow women and men to pursue both love and self-realization. It’s sobering to realize how little progress we’ve made since then. We’ve still got a long way to go, baby.

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