Leslye Headland’s “Bachelorette”

Westporters reading the front page of Tuesday’s New York Times arts section saw a rave review of 1999 Staples graduate — and former Staples Player — Leslye Headland’s “Bachelorette.”

Charles Isherwood called the “scarifying tale of mean-girl malice and generational malaise” — fueled by drugs, alcohol and sex — a “vivid and entertaining play, as witheringly funny as it is bitterly sad.”

Leslye Headland

The main characters — 3 young women and the 2 young men they pick up — are “observed with equal parts savagery and sympathy,” Isherwood says.  “Written with stiletto-sharp wit by Ms. Headland, they are almost embarrassingly compelling.”

Not everyone agrees.  One Times reader savaged the reviewer’s review:

So the characters are wounded, selfish bitches.  So what? Who cares?

Another wrote:

I was just plain offended by this misogynistic piece of claptrap. That any woman could hate women so much is just plain scary.

A Times arts section story earlier this month focused on Headland’s career.  Writer Celia McGee said:

The plays of Ms. Headland and contemporaries like Annie Baker and Elizabeth Meriwether offer an up-to-the-nanosecond portrayal of a generation yet to hit 30 and leery of growing up.  But Ms. Headland also has a soft spot for another influence:  “I think of my plays a bit in the vein of Charles Schulz and Peanuts,” she said, “which, if you read them closely, were super-existential.”

Yet there is nothing cartoonish about Ms. Headland’s creations, said Wes Whitehead, artistic director of the three-year-old IAMA Theater Company in Los Angeles, where Ms. Headland is the artist in residence.  “She likes to explore difficult topics very honestly,” he said.  “The circumstances may be heightened, but every time you’re being left with an emotional connection to what’s happening onstage, and it’s devastating.”

“Bachelorette” director Trip Cullman added:

She has this very dark, painful sense of humor, which like all good humor comes from a place of truth.  It’s shockingly naked in showing how recklessness in people’s 20s can turn into desperation in their 30s, and seeming friendship is really co-dependence.

After Staples, Headland studied directing and acting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.  She graduated in 2003, then spent 4 years in what — according to the Times — “she considers her own addictive relationship, staying too long in an assistant’s job at a New York entertainment company rather than pursuing playwriting.”

Her boss was Harvey Weinstein — the Miramax Films founder, and (coincidentally) a Westporter.

Headland is now in LA, writing for the upcoming FX series “Terriers.”  She’ll soon turn 30 — joining a new age group, ripe for her stiletto-sharp dissection.

6 responses to “Leslye Headland’s “Bachelorette”

  1. Congratulations, Leslye, on both the spectacular review and the courage to write what evoked it. Looks like you’re well into turning society inside out.

  2. But what if it isn’t Leslye writing about “turning society inside out?” What if it’s really Leslye writing what comes naturally to her? That this is her and her generation’s way of speaking. I saw the play last night and was appalled and when I was the age of the characters, I was partying and having a good time! What do they have to be so wounded and depressed? The commentary is on this entitled generation: spoiled, jealous, lazy, mean, nasty, ugly. I am from CT, too, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the author (from the very, very well-to-do Westport) didn’t just conjure up this dialogue but has actually had these conversations with her friends and has harbored these feelings toward others she perceives as “less deserving” than her. This generation of women and those even younger are an embarrassment to women.

    • One who makes it her business to isolate herself from neighboring generations does so out of rage, much like a child from whom a favorite toy or snack has been withheld.
      Diane, you make a last-ditch effort here to misunderstand Ms. Headland’s play. However, your fear of the truths that Bachelorette has conveyed to you has dissolved into the panic that can presently be seen flopping across this message board in its death throes.
      Mine is a generation at a turning point; we are wounded and depressed because we are learning, slowly and painfully, how to move on from the entitlement that has gained us (and indeed still IS gaining us) nothing. After what for some have been years of denial, we are experiencing amid shock and terror that vice doesn’t seem to work for our generation the way it worked for yours. And we are trying to figure out what to do – where to go from here, how to build upon what we’ve been given, and create something of our own – as every generation must and inevitably will.
      That’s just in case you really do want to know, would really like to participate in a world that includes other generations and other people besides yourself.
      If not, why don’t you put on some Maroon 5, go grab some Starbucks, and think about all the things our generation should… be happy about, right?

      By the way, Ms. Headland is not from Westport; her family resides outside that city now. She grew up in a rough neighborhood. So go ahead and respond with a blanket generalization about everyone who had that experience, too. I’ve got plenty of time to banter back and forth with you on this forum; I’m unemployed, thanks to the state that your faultless generation left the economy in.

  3. Small correction: Leslye did indeed partially grow up in Westport. She did 2-3 years of high school there and graduated from Staples.

  4. Thanks “anonymous”. I’m with you.

    Leslye’s achievement deserves praise not approbation. Any artistic expression is the ultimate in risk taking. That she has succeeded in pleasing and shocking audiences with her play places an extraordinary obligation on her: to tell the truth as she sees it, to live up to her responsibility to communicate no matter what the response of the yahoos.

  5. Small correction: “yahoo” from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift means cretin or philistine.