The revival of the Pulitzer Prize winning drama, The Heidi Chronicles opened last week at the Music Box Theatre. At a minimum it is an important work for women—a play that any and all women should consider seeing—if not for the important points and provoking thoughts, then for pure entertainment.
One of Mad Men’s most beloved actresses, Elizabeth Moss, takes the lead and returns to broadway as Heidi Holland, a character not too far off from Peggy Wilson. We see Elizabeth’s depth in Act Two during a 20-minute monologue, as she gives an overall great performance.
Two other actors that steal the show: Bryce Pinkham (Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) giving a brilliant performance as Peter Patrone, Heidi’s lifelong GBF. And Tracee Chimo, who sweeps the audience off their feet with her larger than life multi-role performances of characters: Fran, Molly, Betsy and April. She nails all of the roles flawlessly, my favorite is her depiction of “Hello New York” talk show host, April. She’ll have you in stitches.
The week prior to seeing The Heidi Chronicles I read an interview with Tracee Chimo in Playbill and was struck by her story, Tracee had never planned on being an actress, she had dedicated her life to being a dancer and choreographer, yet after blowing out her knee during a performance, her career in dance came to a screeching halt. She fell into acting by chance after someone suggested she audition for the theatre department at her college.
Tracee on realizing her broadway dreams:
“I came here, and I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t go to a fancy school, and my parents aren’t connected in the business. I tended bar and waited tables at Jimmy’s No. 43 on East Seventh Street—a tiny Ukranian pub. I walked dogs. I cut keys at a hardware store in the Village. I was a traveling cat-sitter. I had all these jobs to pay my rent, but they were flexible enough to let me audition during the day. I did that for eight years. I wanted to leave the business many times. I did’t think anybody would hire me.” read the full interview here
After we left the performance my husband asked me what I thought the play was about, what was the point?
There was one single line that summed it up, I could not get these words or the way they were said out of my head:
Heidi: “Susie, do you ever think what makes you a person is also what keeps you from being a person?“
Bingo! We have the entire message of the play in this one line.
And the brush off reply:
Susan: “I’m sorry, honey. But you’re too deep for me. By now I’ve been so many people, I don’t know who I am. And I don’t care.” (She laughs.)
Following the 1960’s-to-present-day journey of feminism through the eyes of art historian Heidi Holland, I couldn’t help but conclude that it was a play about the (im)possibilities of womanhood. As a woman I didn’t leave the play necessarily feeling uplifted, however I did feel more sure about what needs to be asked. Wendy Wasserstein’s words beg the question: Are we doing it all, and making life choices for the right reasons?
A topic which inadvertently rises to the surface during Heidi Holland’s “Women, Where are We Going” speech, as she relives an encounter with a group of women in her gym locker room:
. . .”I’m sorry I don’t wear leather pants. I’m sorry I don’t eat brown rice. I’m sorry I don’t want to stand naked and discuss Zeus sneakers. I’m sorry I don’t want you to find out that I’m worthless. And superior. (Pause) I’m embarrassed—no, humiliated—in front of every woman in that room. I’m envying women I don’t even know. I’m envying women I don’t even like. I’m sure the woman with the son at Harvard is miserable to her daughter-in-law. I’m sure the gray-haired fiction woman is having a bisexual relationship with a female dockworker and driving her husband crazy. I’m sure the hotshots have screwed a lot of thirty-five-year-old women, my classmates even, out of jobs, raises and husbands. And I’m sure the mothers in the pressed blue jeans think women like me chose the wrong road “It’s a pity they made such a mistake, that empty generation.” Well, I really don’t want to be feeling this way about “Women, Where are We Going?”
. . . I don’t blame the ladies in the locker room for how I feel. I don’t blame any of us. We’re all concerned, intelligent, good women. (Pause) It’s just that 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.
(She walks off.)
We’re left pondering, who or what is really holding us back? Is this behavior written in the genetic nature of the female? And if it is, can we evolve and rise above it all?