Fans of AMC’s Mad Men, returning April 5 for the final episodes of its final season, have watched Elisabeth Moss’ Peggy Olson evolve from meek secretary to rising-star protégé of the brilliant ad-man Don Draper, against the tumultuous backdrop of the 1960s. Moss takes a similar journey on Broadway in the late Wendy Wasserstein’s powerful and funny 1988 dramedy The Heidi Chronicles.
As I say in my video review above, Moss is completely engaging as Heidi Holland, a historian determined to restore great women artists to their deserving place in the canon. Under the astute direction of Pam MacKinnon, we watch her evolve from hesitant co-ed in 1965 through various iterations of the women’s movement and the political upheavals of the next two decades. Sort of like Dorothy on the road to Oz, Heidi is accompanied on this rather circuitous trip by male fellow-travelers: Jason Biggs as “Scoop” Rosenbaum, the smart cynic who will sleep with her over the years but wouldn’t dream of marrying an intellectual equal; and Bryce Pinkham’s Peter Patrone, the gay friend who becomes a pediatrician in the age of AIDS and her closest confidant through the play’s ending in 1985.
Does a line like “You either shave your legs, or you don’t!” make you want to run for the nearest exit, or does it make you want to know more? Joan Allen played Heidi in the original Pulitzer- and Tony-winning production of this provocative, frequently hilarious masterpiece by a playwright who died way too young, in 2006 at age 55. It’s great to have her back again at the Music Box Theatre, even if it’s in a rather plain physical production (John Lee Beatty’s sets especially leave too much to the imagination).
If you’re planning to see The Heidi Chronicles (or you already have), let us know what you think.