MSU Denver’s The Heidi Chronicles is an entertaining study of emptiness

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Posted Wed, Apr 24, 2013

The Metropolitan State University of Denver’s theatre program finished off its performance season last week with a production of “The Heidi Chronicles” by Wendy Wasserstein. It was a much-anticipated show, and the audience at the April 18 performance I went to see nearly filled up the King Center’s Studio Theatre, where it was performed. That audience spent the night alternating between laughter and dead silence, as the play meandered and joked its way through the third wave feminist movement of the last generation.

The story chronicles (see what they did there?) the life of Heidi Holland, from her high school days in the 1960s to her successful career as an art historian in the 1980s. She gets caught up in the feminist movement, befriends a gay pediatrician named Peter Patrone and occasionally dates a journalist named Scoop Rosenbaum. This play, first performed in 1988, won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and has featured actresses like Joan Allen and Brooke Adams in the starring role. It’s a comedic drama, using a humorous tone to deal with some deadly serious topics. MSU’s approach to the play was creatively minimalistic; though the story takes place in many different locations, the same six or seven pieces of furniture were rearranged to suggest each place. The only permanent scenery was a couple of blank walls on a raised platform, and a curtain and several picture frames hanging from the ceiling. Historic images and video clips, accompanied by decade-appropriate music, were projected onto three of the frames between scenes to set the different time periods.

Poster art for "The Heidi Chronicles"

Poster art for “The Heidi Chronicles”

The lead actors’ performances were solid for the most part, but Jean Egdorf, who played Heidi, rightly stole the show. Her long, climactic monologue toward the end was the highlight of the show for me, and she landed every joke and political punch line perfectly throughout.

Unfortunately, even the excellent job the theatre department did with the show, in both its technical and performance aspects, couldn’t fix the problems I had with the story itself. As someone who was born well after most of the events in the play take place, I didn’t understand all the pop culture and political references. Judging by the silence in the crowd after the silence among younger audience members after a few jokes, I’m guessing I wasn’t alone. Putting that aside, however, the end of the play left me with a resounding “so what?” Although “The Heidi Chronicles” deals with feminist themes throughout, it focuses more on what feminism didn’t accomplish than on what it did. Heidi becomes independent and successful, a feminist’s dream, yet she never finds true happiness or fulfillment–and neither do most of the other characters. The play ends with a vague hope that their children will have better lives than they did. It was an entertaining performance, but ultimately it felt like a study of emptiness–as purposeless and downright depressing as a midlife crisis (or a failed art history class).

The Heidi Chronicles by Wendy Wasserstein

Performances: April 11-14, 18-21 in the Studio Theatre in the King Center

Producer: Marilyn A. Hetzel

Director: David L. Wygant

Erika Kae as Susan Johnston, Patrick Bourke as Scoop Rosenbaum, Evan Wold as Peter Patrone and Jean Egdorf as Heidi Holland

About S.L. Alderton

S.L. Alderton is an MSU Denver student majoring in magazine journalism.

View all posts by S.L. Alderton

3 Responses to “MSU Denver’s The Heidi Chronicles is an entertaining study of emptiness”

  1. Bobbye Tarrance Says:

    I bought my first starter kit of Njoys on 07-24-10 and smoked my last cig on 07-25. The Njoys satisfy my cravings completely but my problem is twofold. First the battery doesn’t last very long at all often less than an hour. Some of my batteries are just plain bad! I’ve bought 3 starter packs now & rotate between 4 batteries keeping at least one on a charger at all times. One I just had to call bad and I don’t use it anymore. Another one stays lit even when I’m not drawing on it. Once I set it next to the ashtray in my car while I was in a restaurant and came out to find the cart completely burned in half! There was some damage to my car’s trim but most of the burned cartridge was on the edge of the ash tray. I use the pre filled cartridges and they only come 5 to a bottle for $20. I use more than one a day and almost every one of them gets a hole in it after a few hours. I’m very seriously considering changing brands but the Njoys are convenient because I can buy them from my local smoke shop. Any suggestions?

    Reply

  2. Aaron Lambert Says:

    Good review! You provide a good balance between background and opinion. I like the honesty in your criticism of the play. The piece itself could benefit from more paragraph breaks.

    Reply

  3. Davy Says:

    Good job with the review. You do a good job giving you take on the show.

    Reply

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