The Heidi Chronicles | Critical Review by Graydon Carter

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of The Heidi Chronicles.
This section contains 467 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Graydon Carter

Critical Review by Graydon Carter

SOURCE: "East Side Stories," in Vogue, Vol. 179, No. 3, March, 1989, p. 266B.

In the following unfavorable review, Carter characterizes The Heidi Chronicles, as "Off-Broadway lite" and reminiscent of television sitcoms.

Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles and Richard Greenberg's Eastern Standard are both comedic attempts to humanize the anxieties and dreams of bloodless yuppie existence. Drenched in soppy good intention, both plays have moved from venturesome Off Broadway, where they didn't really belong, to the commercial houses of Broadway, where they do…. In The Heidi Chronicles [Wasserstein] exhumes an old but promising device—picking up the lives of characters at dramatic junctures over a prolonged period—only to cruelly effect a sort of dramatic euthanasia on it. Central to this theme are the character and career of Heidi Holland, played by Joan Allen.

Heidi's life is sketched out in eleven vignettes over the course of some twenty-three years. Along the way we are introduced to the two men in her life, Scoop Rosenbaum, a cocky, too-smart magazine editor played by Peter Friedman (who, in the course of researching his role, spent some time with me; he must have learned the cockiness elsewhere), and Peter Patrone, an awkward but acid-tongued gay pediatrician played by Boyd Gaines. It would be fun and delightfully voyeuristic to drop in on Heidi's life like this, if she weren't so unconnected with what is going on around her. Heidi, alas, is profoundly uninteresting, a lifeless, moody dishrag. Against all evidence to the contrary, everyone nevertheless seems to be mad about her.

Heidi's world is a catalog of baby-boomer clichés. Sensitive men become homosexuals. Independent women become lesbians. Heterosexuals marry but are unhappy. Homosexuals get AIDS. Former radicals become TV producers. Sixties anarchists become eighties capitalists. One young woman, sketched as a mid-1980s, on-the-go professional, is dressed, get this: in a boxy business suit, with a white shirt, floppy red bow tie, and white running shoes and socks. This is social satire on a par with television's Who's the Boss?

You feel like you've seen it all before. And if you grew up in front of the television set, chances are you have. This is Off-Broadway lite, theater written for couch potatoes in the Esperanto of cocooning—sitcom language. At one point in The Heidi Chronicles, one character informs another that they have "charisma. [Beat.] I hate charisma!" A decade before, Lou Grant told Mary Richards: "You have spunk, Mary. [Beat.] I hate spunk." Scoop Rosenbaum (devilishly clever, nicknaming a magazine editor "Scoop"), just married, and having difficulty getting out the word wife, says, "My waa … waaa … [slaps his face] wife!" Ted Baxter similarly stumbled over the word "marr … marrr … marriage" when he proposed to Georgette. Oh, but The Heidi Chronicles brings back such memories. Really, intermission felt more like a station break.

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This section contains 467 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Graydon Carter
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