Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 218

Winner of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the 1989 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (annually awarded to a woman playwright), and a Tony Award for Best Play, The Heidi Chronicles spoke to concerns of the 1980’s as it boosted Wendy Wasserstein to national prominence. An appearance on the popular The David Letterman Show and profiles in magazines such as Time suggested that her style of addressing serious issues with sophisticated comedy and her compassion for her well-educated characters had found a sizable national audience.

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Born in Brooklyn, Wasserstein was reared in Manhattan and studied at Mount Holyoke and City College of New York before enrolling in the Yale University School of Drama in 1973. Subsequent years saw productions of Happy Birthday, Montpelier Pizz-zazz (pr. 1974), and, with Christopher Durang, When Dinah Shore Ruled the Earth (pr. 1975). Prior to The Heidi Chronicles, her most highly praised works were Uncommon Women and Others (pr. 1975, pb. 1979), about five friends who meet at Mount Holyoke; a public television adaptation of John Cheever’s The Sorrows of Gin (1979); and Isn’t It Romantic (pr. 1983, pb. 1984), which contrasts the careers, mothers, and boyfriends of Harriet, a successful businesswoman, and Janie, a bubbly aspiring writer. Other works by Wasserstein include Tender Offer (pr. 1983) and The Man in a Case (pr. 1985, pb. 1986), an adaptation of a story by Anton Chekhov.

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