Just be: The Heidi Chronicles
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
The Heidi Chronicles, the MRTC production for March, contains many twentieth century pop and political culture references, some dating back beyond the Carter administration. If right now you can start the ear worm called “The Shoop Shoop Song” without recalling its title, you will really enjoy the play's background activity. Even if you can’t, smart dialog and aphorisms like, “Nobody goes to lunch to eat” add to the fun.
This retro buzz is the nursery that nurtured the play written by Wendy Wasserstein, the first woman
playwright to win a Tony Award for Best Play. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle’s best-play award. The play is brilliant but is more than thirty years old. Does it still work today? The director, Ellianne Smith, thinks so. She says, “My life thus far has been very different than [Heidi’s] in numerous ways however I feel like her vulnerabilities, worries, convictions and social behavioral cycles are very similar to my own and I sense I’m not alone in that.”
The heroine of her tale of romance, friendship and ambition is Heidi Holland (Brandi Douglas), a Yale educated woman now teaching art history at Columbia University. We see her life in a series of flash backs starting with a high school dance in 1965. Heidi is not at all like her long-time friend Susan (Danyelle Tinker) who hikes up her skirt before dancing with a boy that looks like Bobby Kennedy. Fortunately, Heidi has brought along a book to read at the dance which attracts the attention of a kindred spirit, Peter (BreAnna Manassa) They almost instantly break into a Nichols and May improv as if they were old chums. Throughout the play Peter remains a good friend.
In huge contrast, the next vignette introduces us to Scoop Rosenbaum (Ryan McWayne). His parting
line, “It’s been lovely chatting with me.”, tells you all you need to know about his personality. As the
other members of the cast mature during the play, Scoop marries a woman because she won’t compete with him, continues to grade everyone and everything on a ten-point scale where he seldom rises above six himself and whose self-indulgence would disgust Kim Kardashian.
But that doesn’t matter because the story is about the personal growth of an intelligent woman who is puzzling out her expected life goals. Should she stick to her values, move along with the crowd or
compromise? The ensemble cast of Valerie Asbell, Karlissa Jones, Jeannette Miller Mickenham, and
Brandon Urey play the close friends, the art affectionados, the militant feminists, the absurd talk show host, the successful professional and the stay-at-home mom. All of them together display a spectrum of happiness from boredom to Maslow’s self-actualization.
The two men in her life are analogs of Heidi’s choices. Peter characterizes an enjoyable but unobtainable life without concessions while Scoop represents more of a materialistic realism that some of Heidi’s friends have opted for. Eventually, Heidi expresses her frustration with her quest at a luncheon speech given 21 years after the high school dance. She tells the women of her alumnae association she feels stranded. Heidi thought the point of the feminist movement was, “we are all in this together.”
Although Heidi gets upset with her friends, she never gets angry and never loses her sense of humor. If she can’t have a support system then the answer becomes to have pride in her accomplishments and just be Heidi. Without the need of artificial rewards, she elects happiness and stops questioning what her life is about.
The Heidi Chronicles will be available to stream the weekend of March 27-28. Purchase tickets at https://tinyurl.com/MRTCheidi. You will receive a link to the streaming site via email. The price is on a sliding scale; you can pick what you pay for tickets. Suggested prices range from $10 to $20. A $2.00 processing fee will be added to all tickets purchased online. You can also purchase tickets by calling the Business Office at 541-758-7827. Closed Captioning is available.