Places: The Heidi Chronicles

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1988

First produced: 1988, at Playwrights Horizons, New York City

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Social morality

Time of work: 1965-1989

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Columbia University

*Columbia Heidi Chronicles, TheUniversity. Ivy League university in New York City in a lecture hall in which the prologue to this play is set. Now a successful art historian, Heidi Holland is surprised to find herself lecturing on woman painters in so august an academic setting. Her very presence in this lecture hall proves that she has come a long way from her turbulent life in the 1960’s and 1970’s to have a meaningful career and still be a woman who has everything.

Church basement

Church basement. Place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Heidi and other women meet to discuss women’s issues in 1970. The emergence of socially conscious groups such as hers reflects the rise of collective movements during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Heidi herself merely observes the group’s discussion in the play.

*Chicago Art Institute

*Chicago Art Institute. Place where Heidi and a friend try to persuade passersby to participate in a protest against the lack of representation of women in art in 1974. Heidi speaks on a bullhorn, purposely creating a spectacle to attract an audience. She appropriately chooses an art institute to protest because the setting is patriarchal in itself.

Television studio

Television studio. New York City television station in which Heidi and some of her associates are interviewed for a program in 1982. Heidi and the other interviewees represent the baby-boom generation, who are well off, white-collar professionals living in cosmopolitan cities such as New York City. Their presence in the studio gives them a sense of success, as the studio offers them exposure as representatives of an elite who have it all. However, Heidi is reticent to speak during this interview because she senses that the limelight is not really what she wants. With bright lights pouring on her and a camera aimed at her, Heidi realizes that the limelight of any aspect of a person’s life is ephemeral.

BibliographyArthur, Helen. “Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles.” Review of The Heidi Chronicles, by Wendy Wasserstein. Nation 261, no. 12 (October 16, 1995): 443-445. Discusses the play as adapted for television rather than the original play. Criticizes the drama’s use of historical markers (events, songs) as ineffective.Austin, Gayle. Review of The Heidi Chronicles. Theatre Journal 42 (1990): 107-108. Austin regards the play as simplistic and insufficiently feminist. She notes that Heidi is always depicted as deriving her happiness from the traditional roles of mother or lover and rarely from her work.Brustein, Robert. Review in The New Republic. CC (April 17, 1989), pp. 32-34.Carter, Graydon. Review in Vogue. CLXXIX (March, 1989), p. 266.Finn, William. “Sister Act.” Vogue 182, no. 9 (September, 1992): 360. Summarizes Wasserstein’s career and themes. Henry, William A., III. Review in Time. CXXXIII (March 20, 1989), p. 89.Hoban, Phoebe. “The Family Wasserstein.” New York 26 (January 4, 1993): 32-37.Hornsby, Richard. “Interracial Casting.” Hudson Review 42 (1989): 464-465. In a scathing analysis of The Heidi Chronicles, Hornsby views the play’s plot as aimless, its ideas as trite, and its characters as stereotypes. The critic attributes the play’s popularity to “trendiness” and the fact that its author is a woman.Keyssar, Helene. “Drama and the Dialogic Imagination.” Modern Drama 34 (1991): 88-106. Keyssar regards The Heidi Chronicles as a failure since it depicts its title character only in reaction to an essentially male-dominated world, not in revolution against it. The author views few of the central characters as changing over the course of time.Kramer, Mimi. “Portrait of a Lady,” in The New Yorker. LXIV (December 26, 1988), pp. 81-82.McGuigan, Cathleen. Review in Newsweek. CXIII (March 20, 1989), pp. 76-77.Rose, Phyllis J. “Dear Heidi: An Open Letter to Dr. Holland.” American Theatre 6, no. 7 (October, 1989): 26-29, 114-116. Rose argues that all art is political: It either supports or attacks the existing power structure. For this reason, she criticizes The Heidi Chronicles as focusing upon Heidi’s relationship with men rather than the role that art or work plays in her life.Shapiro, Walter. “Chronicler of Frayed Feminism.” Time, March 27, 1989, 90-92. Describes The Heidi Chronicles’ use of anger and jokes to diminish the pain of loneliness that is central to the play. Describes the playwright’s family as the source for much of her bitter humor.Simon, John. Review in New York. XXII (January 2, 1989), p. 49.Weales, Gerald. “American Theater Watch, 1988-1989.” Georgia Review 43 (1989): 573-575. The author questions why single parenthood seems to “fill the vacuum” in Heidi’s life. Weales notes that Wasserstein lampoons most of the idealistic impulses of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Categories: Places