Monday, May 9, 2016

The Heidi Chronicles—Twilight Theater—North Portland

"Rebirth of Wonder”

This comedy-drama is by Wendy Wasserstein and directed by Dorinda Toner.
  It is playing at their space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (limited parking in the church lot across the street), through May 21st.  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

The above quote from the play does seems to express feelings of those of us that have passed through many eras and are waxing nostalgic as to “what’s it all about….”
  In this case we see those turbulent times, the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s through the eyes of Heidi (Karlyn Weaver), an Art professor and writer.  She begins her journal through these ages by explaining to us that women artists have rarely been  recognized as compared to their male counterparts considered, the “Masters.”  And thus begins our journey with her down memory lane, like snap-shots from important moments in history.
She recalls a cruise with her best friend, Susan (Leslie Collins), in which she meets Peter (Nicholas Paine), a gay pediatrician who will become a life-long pal.
  And then, at a political convention a few years later, she meets an activist and reporter, Scoop (Greg Prosser), who she will also have an enduring relationship with, although a bit rockier.  And a couple years after that, she is thrust into a feminist meeting where she encounters a whole different side of life, gay women and activists (Ilana Watson, Tabitha Ebert and Shelley Tate).  This seems to awaken her role as an activist for women artists to be recognized.
And then a few years later, some of them meet at the wedding of Lisa (Christie Quinn) and one of her long-time friends.
  At the party also is the outspoken Molly (Lalanya Gunn) and Lisa’s sister, Denise (Amanda Martin-Tully), a filmmaker, who will become an important ally in Heidi’s quest to be heard.  Years pass and there is a baby shower for Lisa where Heidi, perhaps, realizes time may be passing her by.  And then there is a talk show where she is united with two old friends, Scoop and Peter, to talk about the changing times.  Scoop has kids of his own now and Peter is in a steady relation with another doctor, Ray (Richard Cohn-Lee), so it may finally be time to say goodbye to old buddies and move on to other places to reinvent herself.  What will happen…you’ll just have to see it to find out.
Wasserstein in an exceptionally good writer, as she is capable of capsulizing important events over about 30 years and still makes a good story out of it.
  For any of use that lived through those ages, I’m sure you will recognize many of the situations she relates.  Toner also effectively uses music from these time periods so that we can put our memories into perspective with those times.  My frequent companion to many of these shows, Deanna (having recently founded the Portland Musical Theater Company), recognized all the songs and music and was even humming along at times.  Music is indeed a great messenger of times gone by.
Toner does an especially good of translating Wasserstein’s epic story to the stage and has assembled a fine cast.
  Paine was touching as the gay doctor, not only having to deal with all the complications in the medical profession but also dealing with his sexuality when it was not fashionable to be “out of the closet.”  Prosser was good, too, as an arrogant jerk that you just can’t help liking.  And, in the pivotal role of Heidi, Weaver does a very good job of exposing us to these confusing and exciting times as seen through her eyes.  Not an easy role, as she must be an observer much of the time, and yet these events can’t help but influence her.  A nicely realized balancing act by Weaver.
I recommend this play.
  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.