Elisabeth Moss Shines at the Music Box Theatre
On March 19, 2015, The Heidi Chronicles opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre. This play, originally produced in 1988, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1989. Written by Wendy Wasserstein (The Sisters Rosenweig, An American Daughter), this production is directed by Pam MacKinnon (A Delicate Balance, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Clybourne Park). Wendy Wasserstein, who passed away in 2006 due to lymphoma, is highly regarded as one of the great contemporary feminist playwrights of our time. This production has done justice to her legacy, with Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men,” Speed-the-Plow, London’s The Children’s Hour) playing the title role of Heidi Holland, a character who is semi autobiographical. Additional roles are played by Jason Biggs (“American Pie” franchise, The Play What I Wrote, The Graduate) and Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Ghost the Musical). It tells the story of a young woman named Heidi, spanning her life from childhood through more than 20 years of her life, dealing with themes of a woman’s independence, raising children, settling with a man, and building a career. The play is scheduled to run for a limited engagement until August 9, 2015.
In sum, the reviews were positive for The Heidi Chronicles. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times found the play resonant today despite being written 27 years ago. He praised Elisabeth Moss, calling her “superb” and remarking on her ability to portray innocence at the same time as cunning. Robert Kahn of NBC New York also loved the show, commenting that it did not seem dated as the issues at the heart of the play are definitely still important today, and the answers are just as uncomfortable, as our culture as a whole has not fully figured out the dilemma of women’s place in society. Furthermore, Linda Winer of Newsday was overwhelmed with sentiment following this revival, not only because it is the first major production of Wendy Wasserstein’s work following her death, but also because the play definitely stands up to its legacy. Adam Feldman of Time Out New York was less sold on the production, finding the heartbeat of the play to be less resounding than it was when first performed, although acknowledging that the play has always been historical in its perspective. In addition, David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter found the best thing about the play to be Ms. Moss’ performance, but he did not fully enjoy the construction of the narrative.
A Difficult Sell at the Box Office
Elisabeth Moss may be a hot name in Hollywood due to her fame from “Mad Men,” but perhaps she has not yet reached the heights of a star who can sell a Broadway show from her name alone. Furthermore, the play and the playwright have a serious pedigree among theatre circles, but in the wider community, and especially the tourist market, they may have little resonance. Therefore, the box office figures have not been outstanding thus far in the run, and even following the mostly positive reviews, the numbers have budged just barely upward. In the most recent week of reported box office, the week ending March 29, 2015, The Heidi Chronicles brought in $335,976, which represents 37.7% of its gross potential. In the five weeks of the run thus far, the show has been on a steady incline, although very slight. For instance, this past week it only went up by $6,974 from the week before, when it had increased by $7,025 from the week before that. Therefore, it may be difficult for this show to come close to breaking even, unless something dramatically different happens in these financial patterns.