Remember the old feminist adage: A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. It is in that antique spirit that The Heidi Chronicles in a new production at the Music Box Theater follows art historian Heidi Holland (a pitch perfect Elisabeth Moss) through decades of social and political change with the men and women most prominent in her life. She met Peter (Bryce Pinkham just off his Tony winning performance in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder) at a high school dance, and Scoop (Jason Biggs) at a McCarthy fundraiser; those historic markers anchor Wendy Wasserstein's smart, quip-heavy drama, further informed by the soft rhetoric of consciousness raising, through the strident '70's into feminism's late '80's moment, when Heidi, still unwed learns how to deal with her aloneness, as did this significant playwright in her real life before her early death.
The big question would be, how do these pioneering decades play for a younger generation? For my date, aged 25, this production, under Pam MacKinnon's able direction, was not a trip down memory lane as it was for me, but she could appreciate the choices for these women on whose shoulders she stands. That said, stories about women dating and mating are eternal, and if nothing else, The Heidi Chronicles is a bittersweet picture of an era's educated, privileged women seeking larger vistas than marriage, babies, and the low level positions they could occupy, if they had to work at all. It is useful to remember, education used to be available, affordable, often free, and not the economic burden it is for most students today.
Elisabeth Moss, now more famous for Mad Men than when I first saw her onstage in David Mamet's Speed the Plow opposite Jeremy Piven and Raul Esparza, gives Heidi the requisite intelligence, as she did in the Mamet play. As Heidi grows and changes, taking on the challenges of autonomy, the men seem more mired in their societal roles, gay Peter in the age of AIDS, and infantile Scoop, ambitious in politics, career, social climbing, "marrying well," despite loving Heidi.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.