When I saw The Heidi Chronicles in New York, I laughed a lot, but I wasn’t sure what playwright Wendy Wasserstein was trying to say. In the production now at Halsted Theatre Centre, originally at the National Jewish Theater in Skokie, the easy laughs are downplayed and Wasserstein’s touching and thought-provoking picture of friendship and personal integrity comes through clearly. Janice St. John’s underplayed and honest acting style shows Heidi to be a rock of stability through the years of changing ideological fashion; but far from portraying her as a passive onlooker, as many other actresses have been criticized for doing, St. John shows Heidi’s quiet but firm individuality. The core of The Heidi Chronicles is Heidi’s loving and intense friendship with Peter, a gay pediatrician whose integrity and strength matches and sometimes surpasses hers, and Si Osborne’s stunning performance as Peter is itself worth the price of a ticket. Osborne, with his rich voice and masterful sense of timing, magnificently captures Peter’s complex dualities–his cynicism and romanticism, strength and despair, and most importantly the sense of humor with which he both confronts the complacency around him and shields himself from it. Together, St. John and Osborne achieve a palpable connection. Halsted Theatre Centre, open run (2700 N. Halsted, 348-0110). Tuesdays, 7 PM; Wednesdays, 2 and 8 PM; Thursdays amd Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 6 and 9:30 PM; Sundays, 3 and 7 PM. $25-$32.50.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lisa Ebright.