48 pages 1 hour read

Wendy Wasserstein

The Heidi Chronicles

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1988

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Act II

Act Summaries & Analyses

Act II, Prologue Summary

It’s 1989 again, and Heidi is lecturing about the painter Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933) and her Impressionist portraiture. But instead of “Lady with a Bowl of Violets,” Heidi’s teaching assistant accidentally projects “Judith Beheading Holofernes” by Artemisia Gentileschi, and she waits for the correct slide to come up. Heidi points out Perry’s impressionistic use of lines and color, although she “cops out when she gets to the head” (206), reverting to more traditional portrait techniques. Heidi prefers “Lady in Evening Dress,” which more closely employs the Impressionist techniques that Perry learned from her mentor, Claude Monet, leaning into the softened and indistinct edges. Heidi points out that Perry’s paintings, as well as Lily Martin Spencer’s work, are “uniquely female,” not, she explains adamantly, because they are delicate or charming, but because “both ladies seem slightly removed from the occasions at hand” (206). She likens their posture to hers as an art historian, that of “a highly informed spectator” (206).

Act II, Scene 1 Summary

It’s 1980, and in Lisa and Scoop’s apartment, Lisa is pregnant and opening gifts at her baby shower. Gathered around are Betsy (age 35), the managing editor of Boomer, Scoop’s magazine; Lisa’s sister, Denise (age 24); and Susan, who has adopted a new look.