Several weeks ago I reviewed the Heidi Chronicles (see below) and didn’t like it. Last night, however, my book discussion group got together to “perform” the play by taking roles and reading aloud. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves ….The wine and good food helped.
To add to the play experience, the organizers of our event printed copies of the paintings Heidi was so passionate about. They also played the music of the times at the appropriate places in the readings. Those little touches added a lot.
Our book discussion group agreed that reading the play aloud and bringing in different voices and inflections, changed the feel for the work. I became more interested in the characters. So….read my review below, but also consider reading the play with your book group. We agreed that the best discussions would include women who grew up in the sixties and their daughtes and granddaughters. Try it.
I didn’t care for this story. Maybe it was the play format. Much of it didn’t make sense or was too difficult to follow. I never got to like any of the characters. They were snarky, sarcastic, and full of themselves. When they were younger the women were self-righteous, elitist, and judgmental… thinking that their view of society and women was the only correct way. Anyone who thought otherwise was unintelligent or uneducated. Where one went to school defined a person. The job one held defined a person. Only people successful in liberal arts (art, journalism, acting) were acceptable. A woman who preferred a family, babies, or a traditional home over a career was to be pitied. They thought that everyone had to have their “consciousness raised” and they were just the ones to make that happen. Very arrogant. The group of friends (I use the term loosely because they sniped at each other a lot and had long periods without communication), saw themselves as pioneers in the women’s movement. However, most of them eventually dropped out of the movement and “sold out” to materialism. They all got busy with their careers and chased after notoriety, very much into themselves. Heidi seemed to be the only one who carried her hard-core beliefs about art and feminism into her thirties. None of them were happy with their choices. None were satisfied with their lives. I began to understand Heidi toward the end of the book and respect her for believing in something fully and staying true to those beliefs. The reader was led to believe that she might find happiness …. maybe with fulfillment in her work, maybe with Scoop or some other guy, maybe with the child she adopted. But in the end she got none of that. I was very disappointed that she adopted the baby girl…not for a child to love, not to fulfill her maternal instincts…but to have a girl to pass on her feminist views to….to continue the movement. It seemed so unfair to the child. Being of the same age and of the same era as these women, I should have been able to identify with the story. The author used many musical and product references and, in my opinion, over did it. The songs, etc. became annoying. My favorite character was Peter, the gay friend, but even he seemed shallow. His “husband” was dying of AIDS and in hospital and Peter picks up his next lover in the waiting room. I got the feeling that I was being hit over the head with all the popular causes of the times and if you were there and weren’t out protesting or lobbying for those causes, you were irrelevant. This production was too heavy-handed, and I’m glad I didn’t spend money to see the play acted on stage. I believe that the awards won by this play were granted by like-minded people (other elites) rather than received through popularity in the general society. I do believe that certain women fought hard for equal rights and some may have sacrificed their own happiness for their cause. I believe the movement brought change, some of it worthwhile. However, I’m not sure that women and society are in better places because of the movement in general. Therefore, it is in doubt whether Heidi and her friends should be applauded or pitied for their efforts.