HEIDI. You know all about Heidi, of course. Cute little girl. Lives in the Swiss Alps with her kindly grandfather and a few goats. Has all those adventures. It's all pastoral and very sweet.
Oops - wrong story!Wrong Heidi!
Let's see . . . Heidi . . . Heidi . . . here we are, Heidi Holland - graduate of Vassar and Yale, art historian, central character in "The Heidi Chronicles," a Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning comedy by Wendy Wasserstein.
The play is having its regional premiere at Salt Lake Acting Company this week. Preview performances are Wednesday and Thursday, May 8 and 9, with regular performances from May 10 through June 23.
Edward J. Gryska, SLAC's producing artistic director, is directing the play. His cast includes Joyce Cohen, Bobbi Fouts, Richard Jewkes, Betsy Nagel, Richard Nelson, Michelle Peterson, Britt Sady and Michael Shane.
This Heidi, like the classic moppet from our childhood days, embarks on a journey - not of Alpine adventures, but of seeking fulfillment during the turbulent '60s, '70s and '80s - nearly 25 years of consciousness-raising, politics, sexual bias, professional career vs. motherhood, yuppiedom.
Wasserstein touches on a lengthy list of social issues from the past 2 1/2 decades, raising some important questions with dialogue that is both witty and brittle. (Some critics add that her approach is superficial, too - but we can't have it all, can we?)
Men and women who do "want it all" are among the various and sundry friends and acquaintances who pop up during Wasserstein's chronicle of Heidi Holland's journey.
The key to the play, Wasserstein explained once to Janice Berman of New York Newsday, is contradiction.
"Have you ever noticed that what makes you a person keeps you from being a person?" is one line quoted from the play.
"I think that's what `Heidi' is about," Wasserstein told Berman. "What makes you strong is what makes you different."
Wasserstein is author of such acclaimed previous scripts as "Uncommon Women and Others" (staged just this past season in the Art Barn), "Isn't It Romantic" and co-author (with Christopher Durang) of a screenplay, "The House of Husbands" and an adaptation of Stephen McCauley's novel "The Object of My Affection," both of which have yet to be produced.
With the financial support of the British-American Arts Association, which awarded her a grant, she spent the better part of two years working on "The Heidi Chronicles," which was first performed as a workshop production at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in April 1987. It received its New York premiere on Dec. 11, 1988, at the off-Broadway Playwrights Horizons, moving three months later to the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway.
In addition to the Pulitzer and the Tony awards, "The Heidi Chronicles" earned virtually every major New York theater award, including the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk "best new play" honors.
Along with the trophies, "Heidi" also garnered a considerable amount of critical acclaim.
Howard Kissell of the New York Daily News said, "Wasserstein reproduces the inanities and glibness of the last 20 years with a shrewd eye and a perfect ear for the self-delusional . . . . shows `the way we live now' with splendid humor, clearheadedness and a healthy compassion for human absurdity."
Clive Barnes of the New York Post said, "Although Wasserstein's self-absorbed characters take the Me Generation so seriously that every walk across the road becomes a passage in autobiography, the play finds its firm focus in the character of Heidi herself, and Heidi's struggles in the war for women's liberation.
"We see 23 years of Heidi and her awakening, we see her friends and the two men in her life - one, Peter, a homosexual podiatrist, and the other, Scoop, a womanizing lawyer/editor - all swimming around like happy piranhas in the Yuppie aquarium."
Salt Lake Acting Company's production of "The Heidi Chronicles" is one of the first by a regional company. There is also a national tour on the road this season, which has Wasserstein making the rounds of the talk-show circuit.
In one recent interview, the playwright noted that audiences around the country are not as unsophisticated as some people think and that literate people can attract a crowd of their own. Wasserstein is writing a new play, her first since "The Heidi Chronicles."
She told Frank Rizzo of the Hartford Courant last month that "it's just starting to evolve, but it's an adult romance. It's about 50-year-old people who fall in love."
- SALT LAKE ACTING COMPANY's production of "The Heidi Chronicles" will play on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m.
There will be a post-play discussion on Sunday, May 12, following the matinee performance, with director Ed Gryska, the actors and Aden Ross, SLAC's literary manager. A second post-play discussion is scheduled for May 16 with the actors and Ross.
Assisting with the production are Cory Dangerfield, scenery; Megan McCormick, lighting; Bob Cox, sound; Christine Murdoch Becz, costumes; and Michael Adamson, wigs. Janice Bonser will be stage manager.
For reservations or further information, call Salt Lake Acting Company at 363-0525. The theater is located at 168 W. 500 North.