'Heidi' chronicles some messy but entertaining lives

March 10, 1995|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

Poor Heidi. A doctorate in art history, from Yale, no less. And still, she was always the one just along for the ride.

At high school dances, she read "Death Be Not Proud" while everyone else engaged in teen-age mating rituals to the strains of Gerry and the Pacemakers.

She was the only one at Gene McCarthy's New Hampshire headquarters who had never read Marcuse.

As a gaggle of goofy Ann Arbor women self-actualized in the '70s, she could only watch while others vented.

Heidi's personal life? Don't ask. Her lover, a rakish idealist turned cynical magazine editor-publisher, won't give her the time of day emotionally until he marries. Marries someone else, that is.

Peter, the one man who both loves and understands her, is gay. And the soundtrack that accompanies her life starts with Aretha Franklin and ends up with Barry Manilow. Talk about indignity.

Still, no doubt about it, Heidi's life makes a pretty entertaining story. And you can follow her quest for fulfillment in great detail if you attend Wendy Wasserstein's play "The Heidi Chronicles," which is in production at the Pasadena Theatre Company's Baldwin Hall through March 25.

Now, I know I'm supposed to use words like like "bittersweet" and "consciousness raising" to describe Heidi's story. But at the risk of being called insensitive, let me say that that the play is an out-and-out hoot.

These characters constitute the most ludicrous collection of over-intellectualized goofballs I've seen in years. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them make messes of their lives, and I cared not a fig about any of them, with one exception: Lisa. She's the lovely Southern girl who marries the caddish editor out of love only to have him confessing his indifference toward her to Heidi -- at their wedding reception, no less. The rest are wimps, jerks or pseudo-intellectual frauds.

Not that there aren't things to admire about Karen Eske's somewhat befuddled Heidi. She's smart. She means well. She )) delivers a touching motivational speech at her alma mater. And when enlightenment finally beckons, the life-changing decision she makes is worth cheering about.

But what a wimp she is. Was I supposed to feel sorry for her as the two men in her life walked all over her in a three-way TV interview? She should have applied her knee to the nearest groin.

I think you'll also enjoy watching the men in her life. Kevin Wallace is delightfully smarmy as Scoop Rosenbaum, the heroine's selfish, unconnecting lover.

Lou Banlaki brings some intensity to the stage as the gay doctor whose love for Heidi seems the only reference point in her life, save for her art. His opening high school banter is all but incomprehensible, but once he slows down, he's very good.

Other notable performances are given by Stacey Werling as Heidi's high-powered but clueless friend Susan, and by Kathy Marshall, whose manic feminist cheer would be enough to make Gloria Steinem sorry she didn't write about cooking or migratory fowl.

Kudos also to Christine Reshetiloff's Lisa, whose honest vulnerability put all these tortured theorists and sexual polemicists in the shade.

And you know what? I just realized I'm glad Heidi figured it all out, however belatedly. Maybe I do care about her after all.

The Pasadena Theatre Company's production of "The Heidi Chronicles" will be at Baldwin Hall in Millersville through March 25. Call 923-7687 for ticket information.

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