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BWW Review: Charming and Delightful, THE HEIDI CHRONICLES is Still Timid

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Soulpepper's latest production of Wendy Wasserstein's 1989 play, THE HEIDI CHRONICLES explores the changing role of women in society through the coming-of-age story of a woman named - you guessed it, Heidi. The production features a series of episodic scenes throughout Heidi's life; from an awkward high school dance, to a career-focused driven woman and all the messy things in between. Michelle Monteith stars in the title role and goes on a transformative journey with a supporting cast of Soulpepper staples including Raquel Duffy, Sarah Wilson, Damien Atkins and Jordan Pettle.

Heidi navigates her years from a teenager to a successful 40-year old art history professor at Columbia. A few bad decisions, a regretful kiss and a messy attempt at love shed light on the advancement of women during this time. Seeking the balance of fulfillment between family and career - Heidi interacts with likeminded individuals to make a change. A passionate art historian, Heidi examines the portrayal of women in classic art - which seem resonate with her maturity and growth throughout the production. Set against the backdrop of a women's protest, the set is also dressed with stunning projections of women in art. It's a celebrated work that is just as relevant today as it was in 1989. Though Wasserstein's work shows its age with many of the cultural references cited resonate more with the baby boomer audience in which the play celebrates.

Monteith glows in the early years of the performance - her charmingly shy and awkward portrayal of a fourteen-year-old girl is a true delight. As Heidi navigates her young adulthood the audience is also witness to the growth and maturity - it's like watching a dear friend grow up before your eyes. However, in her later years, Monteith's portrayal almost becomes one-noted; sometimes lacking the depth and range of emotion to match the new challenges in Heidi's life. Perhaps it's the staler second act in Wassterstein's work - but the trajectory and tempo begins to decline fast in the last few scenes.

Or perhaps that in comparison to other actors in the cast, Monteith's role is too timid and gets outshines. Sarah Wilson once again proves to be a true gem in the Soulpepper company as she continues to steal every scene she is in. Portraying Heidi's childhood friend Susan, Wilson exudes charisma from her thrill-seeking teenage years to her days as hotshot Hollywood exec. Wilson manages to captivate the audience with every line - her personality is almost as bright as the neon orange power suit she wears in the second act.

Damien Atkins also thrills as the adorkable Peter - the one that got away; per say. Peter is Heidi's friend, her first dance and her first spark in growing up. Peter goes through an emotional journey as he navigates finding himself, personally, professionally and romantically - as a gay pediatrician the stresses of his personal and professional life take a toll on their relationship. It's a tough role, but Atkins adds the right amount of charm and emotion to every scene.

Wilson and Atkins save what is otherwise an average night at the theatre. By no means bad, THE HEIDI CHRONICLES is simply anti-climactic at no fault of this talented Soulpepper company.

THE HEIDI CHRONICLES is now playing the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until June 18, 2016. For tickets and more information, visit soulpepper.ca


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