Revival of The Heidi Chronicles Brings Feminism and Friendship Back to Broadway

Revival of The Heidi Chronicles Brings Feminism and Friendship Back to Broadway

The Heidi Chronicles follows Heidi Holland’s journey to and through adulthood as she searches for her greater purpose during a time in American history when women’s roles in society were evolving.

Spoiler alert: The Heidi Chronicles is not about Heidi, that little girl from Switzerland, circa the 1880s, who lives up in the mountains and befriends her neighbor Peter. This play is about a young American woman named Heidi Holland (Elisabeth Moss) who befriends a boy named Peter Patrone (Bryce Pinkham) at a school dance and it follows their friendship, as well as her relationship with magazine editor Scoop Rosenbaum (Jason Biggs), from 1965-1989.

Actually, no. It’s more than that. The Heidi Chronicles is about Heidi’s journey to and through adulthood during a time when women’s roles in society, at home and at work were evolving. Feminism, sexism and equal rights are discussed, challenged and fought for as Heidi grows into a woman her younger self would be proud of. In addition to Heidi’s relationships with Peter and Scoop, the dynamics among small groups of females are explored; exposing both the cracks made by gossip and the empowerment that comes from when women support and champion each other. It’s not an easy journey, nor an altogether pleasant one for Heidi, but the play has heart and its leads are among the reasons why.

Elisabeth Moss might be most familiar to audiences from her role as Peggy on Mad Men. Like Peggy, Heidi goes for what she wants because no one is going to just hand it to her. There are so many moments where Heidi can take a path of least (or lesser) resistance, but she doesn’t and it’s inspiring. Although there are times when Heidi is overlooked or ignored, she finds her voice and presses on. Moss is a strong and welcome presence on stage, deftly anchoring the production. Moss ensures Heidi is always someone you want to root for because she deserves better than just settling. I root for Heidi because I want to befriend her. I root for Heidi because I want to be brave like her.

Though the play is called The Heidi Chronicles, I would very much be interested in a spinoff called The Peter Chronicles, so long as Bryce Pinkham is playing Peter. His performance is as hilarious as it is heart-tugging, and I found myself eagerly waiting for him to return to the stage as soon as Peter exited a scene. Peter is Heidi’s “gay best friend” during a time in American history when that wasn’t a widely socially acceptable thing or an abused plot point in sitcoms. Several characters wonder why the two of them don’t have a more intimate relationship and even Heidi has pause with Peter’s want for gay rights to be a part of her equal rights protest. (Though the play is set in the past, so much of it is scarily relevant to social issues still in the news today.) Pinkham’s ability to shift from epic snark to tender moments of vulnerability as he speaks about the realities of the AIDS epidemic is a privilege to watch. I’d want to befriend him/Peter too.

I would not want to befriend Scoop. Okay, maybe a little. I love the way Scoop rates things with letter grades because that is something I very much relate to. Jason Biggs plays Scoop as a selfish guy who is completely aware of his selfishness. That kind of cockiness is off-putting, but at the same time you have to admire him for being that confident. Though I much prefer Biggs when he’s playing nice guys like Jim from the American Pie franchise, there’s still a charm to Scoop and I very much get why Heidi would fall for him. He challenges her and calls her out on things like Peter does, only with an added amount of reciprocated sexual tension.

Moss, Pinkham and Biggs are joined onstage by a brilliant supporting ensemble: Ali Ahn, Andy Truschinski, Leighton Bryan, Tracee Chimo and Elise Kibler all land memorable moments and Chimo’s multiple line readings of, “You either shave your legs or you don’t,” while playing Fran will likely stay with me forever. Fran is a lady hero for us all. (And would definitely get side-eyed on the subway for her equivalent of man-spreading.)

I saw The Heidi Chronicles in its second week of previews and the show has so many great things going for it. In addition to the talented cast and Pulitzer Prize-winning text, the soundtrack to the show really puts you in the mood for the flashes to the past. Plus, who wouldn’t want to meet their best friend while awkwardly dancing and singing along to “The Shoop Shoop Song?”

So… if you wanna know if he loves you so (but it’s okay if he doesn’t, so long as you still love yourself because self-love is important), The Heidi Chronicles is running at The Music Box on West 45th St.

Caption: Photo by Joan Marcus, featuring Ali Ahn, Elisabeth Moss and Elise Kibler

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