A chronological timeline spanning three decades, covering 1968 to 1985, The Heidi Chronicles is set in middle class white America. This production by Newtown’s New Theatre is an opportunity for younger audiences to gain an understanding of politics and for the older audience to give it a nostalgic nod.
Written in 1988 by Wendy Wasserstein, The Heidi Chronicles was prompted by her own personal experiences. The play features a heroine for her times, modelled largely on Wasserstein herself, a woman who succeeds professionally but flounders in her personal life, who “wants it all – motherhood, sisterhood, love and boardroom respect”.
Mainly it’s about the changing role of women as they get older and the evolution of feminism. In various scenes Heidi and her friends tell stories: of their idealism in the 60’s, joining women’s collectives and campaigning for gender equality, the beginning of the gay movement, exploring marriage and fidelity, and finally the ticking of the biological clock – the whole gamut. We witness the battles fought, the placard waving and “torching your lingerie” [bra burning] in a convincing woven narrative.
Against a backdrop of giant black and white stills, you’ll recognise some of the famous photos from the Vietnam War, Kennedy assassinations and moon landing, with eight actors on stage for 2 and a half hours (with a 20 minute interval) you’ll be flabbergasted by the content covered.
With The Heidi Chronicles, Wasserstein became the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Play, also winning the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Drama Desk Award, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. (MS)
Jun 7–Jul 9 (Thu–Sat 7.30pm, Sun 5pm). New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown. $17-$32. Tickets & info: newtheatre.org.au
BY MEL SOMERVILLE