By Wendy Wasserstein.
After reading Wendy and the Lost Boys, I decided to do some play reading. Which will make for an odd review here, I think.
Uncommon Women and Others: This play is based off of Wendy's strange experiences at going to Mount Holyoke for college during the sexual revolution. In the midst of transition, the school was going from a place where Gracious Living was practiced to well...ladies boinking whoever they like and wearing pants. It sounded like it was a schizophrenic time in Wendy and the Lost Boys, and it comes across that way too in this play. I'll admit that uh...I had problems with relating to this play. It's just so foreign of an environment to me--and I speak as someone who's been in a college environment for a long-ass time. Somehow the weird world that these women were living in threw me off enough that I had a really hard time getting into it. Sure, there was the occasional moment of relating to the women's 21-year-old angst as to what their future plans are, but mostly I just wasn't into it.
I'll also admit that this play might make more sense if you see it staged (a la Shakespeare), because I don't really get why the play starts out with the women meeting up for lunch around 10 years after college, then spends most of the play in college, then cuts back to 10 years later and that's it. It also didn't really seem like it had much plot beyond "coming of age," really. So by itself I'd probably give it two stars...but really, this may be just my problem and it may just be Not For Me.
Isn't It Romantic (note: it isn't!): Isn't It Romantic, on the other hand, I related to greatly. It honestly felt pretty fresh and current to me, seeing as it deals with the perennial issue of "who should I settle down with, if anyone at all?" It features Janie, a girl who starts dating a Jewish doctor. Perfect, right? And he's okay as a person...though he certainly uh, Takes Charge a lot, and suddenly decides stuff for Janie without telling her that they're moving in together and things like that. And he calls her Monkey, which ain't her favorite romantic endearment ever. The other featured girl is Harriet, a career woman who starts sleeping with her boss's boss, who unabashedly has a girlfriend at home and doesn't give a shit about her. It's obviously doomed from the getgo there.
I loved this quote on the problem: "Well, if you live with him, you won't have to wonder who'll hold you at night, what will happen if you don't pay your taxes, or even, if you want children, who you could possibly get to be the father. You won't read articles in magazines about single women and have to think of the fifty different reasons why you're different from that. You won't begin to notice younger men on the street or think I'm not really hurting a married man's wife if I have an affair with him, because if it's not me, it'll be somebody else. But Janie, how could you sleep next to a man as nice as Marty and lie to him and say I love you?" Good point.
I liked how Janie resolved things, though Harriet's resolution--a last minute engagement to a guy she's known two weeks-- is frustrating for everybody. By itself, I give it four stars.
The Heidi Chronicles: Heidi was my first introduction to Wendy Wasserstein and the only one here I've seen live. I loved it. Though I'll admit that I find it harder to get into just reading it in play form, and it seems a little wordy and weird in places. It's a play that covers the same old issue that women who never settled down with a man have all the time, and yet is really, really set in the time period (60's-80's) what with all of the political commentary and snarking. It features Heidi, a woman who becomes an art historian and who never does settle down with a guy even though other folks do. Her life fits into the feminist movement, and yet she always feels alone in her life circumstances somehow. Her best friend since high school, Susan, goes through a drastic amount of changes. Her gay best friend Peter comes out of the closet and lives life as he wants to.
She has a downright hypnotic relationship over the years with Scoop Rosenbaum, a lawyer/journalist fellow who even Heidi describes as a "charming creep." And by god, he is. He's unabashed about what you get with him--not faithfulness at all--and pops in and out of Heidi's life over the years. I'll always remember seeing the first scene between them in the theater--even though the actor playing him wasn't the hottest thing going, and indeed the fellow is being irritating when he meets Heidi at a dance--there is something THERE that grabs you. It's Scoop's line at the end of the scene that just gets me in the gut somehow and makes you root for him despite his mostly-douchiness:
"Maybe I'll remember it one day when I'm thirty-five and watching my son's performance as Johnny Appleseed. Maybe I'll look at my wife, who puts up with me, and flash on when I was editor of a crackpot liberal newspaper and thought I could fall in love with Heidi Holland, the canvassing art historian, that first snowy night in Manchester, New Hampshire, 1968."
Well, maybe it makes more sense when you watch it. But at the time I was all, DAMN, THIS ACTOR IS GOOD. So's the line, really.
Anyway, Scoop marries another woman because he'd rather settle for someone who will be his wifey-poo rather than Heidi, who'd want to be equals. And while we're told Heidi dates others over the years, somehow Scoop continues to be an off-and-on friend in her life. And Heidi seems adrift, like in her speech on "Women, Where Are We Going." She hasn't prepared a speech ahead of time, but instead talks about being in the locker room with a random assortment of women--single and hot, old ladies, moms--and feeling both worthless and superior at the same time. "It's just that I feel stranded. And I thought the whole point was that we wouldn't feel stranded. I thought the point was that we were all in this together." Good point. You really feel for Heidi in that moment--as well as in a TV interview when the men on stage literally drown her out. Eventually Heidi figures out a way to feel less stranded. As a focus on the plight of the modern adult single woman, this play rocks. Four stars.
Overall, I'll give this three and a half stars. I'd probably skip "Uncommon Women" in a reread, but the other two are gut punchers in a good way.