Sunday, March 18, 2007

I really miss Wendy Wasserstein

...meanwhile back at one of the other revolutions...

I didn't know I was missing her but I just read The Heidi Chronicles. She died too soon to finish telling a version of the American post-war cohort story that I found sad, recognizable and compelling. I ache to see how it all turns out and I shall never quite know.

It is not a lie to characterize a cohort by putting in their mouths the words they only wish they had said.

Its a drama. Nearly everything is in caricature in this play. But it is like seeing an Al Hirschfeld drawing. All the uninformative average features and filler have been left out so effectively that the stylish blobs and swept lines of the remaining picture, which no computer could match to the person, are instantly mapped to the subject by us humans. Wasserstein seems on the surface to have only a little pity for herself and even less for the somewhat iconic characters that play through her life in flashbacks.

The sadness is not in the wistful recounting of uncommitted lives that miss their potential to connect. Such stuff could fuel the drama's of any age. The sadness is the way the self-anointed generation who rang doorbells for Eugene McCarthy and who flooded the streets to shout down the establishment folly of the Viet Nam war gradually became the establishment, turning their own slogans into babble and losing their souls. There is no one line in the play where such things are said and yet that was very much the impression that had settled into my mind before the last scenes. Critics knocked this Pulitzer winning play for its contrived ending. I don't see how it could be honestly called that since this is an impressionistically autobiographical play and that last scene is, at the plot level, an exact quote from Wasserstein's life.

I'd like to imagine that everyone of a certain age and inclined to browse about in the left lobe of the blogosphere has read this play. Not really a baby boomer, not New Yorker enough, not Jewish enough or feminist enough to have picked it up yet? Such labels are almost characters in this play but it is not about any of those identities. Nor should one treat it as foreign for its reliance on period rock music or names from the news of each decade: every generation grows up. Do get the play and enjoy looking in on a generation, as it would have expressed itself.

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