Friday, June 22, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Year of Magical Thinking -- Westport

Maureen Anderman as Joan Didion. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

The Year of Magical Thinking
By Joan Didion
Starring Maureen Anderman
Directed by Nicholas Martin
Westport Country Playhouse

What is it about?
Based on Didion's bestselling memoir of the same title (winner of the National Book Award), it details a year in the life of the author and how she copes with the sudden loss in 2003 of her screenplay writing partner, best-friend and husband, John Gregory Dunne, to a heart attack even while their daughter, Quintana, lies in coma battling a septic infection. The daughter hangs on and seemigly recovers, only to relapse and die in 2005 (Didion recorded her thoughts about this in another book,"Blue Nights".) "Magical Thinking" refers to her thought process as she works through complete denial, avoidance and acceptance of her grief over John's death. The message: Life changes in an instant.

What are the highlights:
It is full of great insight about life, love and coping. An honest reflection that helped the author get through her grief. It's a tour de force for the actress who delivers 90 minutes of monologue without an intermission. Alexander Dodge nicely sets the stage, boxing in Anderman's grief with a wooden frame, then revealing an ocean of grief just beyond a veil of denial (depicted by a backdrop lighted by Philip Rosenberg behind  a scrim).
What are the lowlights?
It's 90 minutes of a lot of unhappy stuff. Depending on how it is presented (here with an intensity that masks some of Didion's humor), it can be difficult to sit through, particularly if you have lost a loved one.

More information:
The year of Magical Thinking runs at the Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport, through June 30.
For more information or tickets: 203-227-4177, toll-free 1-888-927-7529;
www.westportplayhouse.org.

On Thursday, June 28, at  7 pm, Didion will appear at Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford. She will be interviewed by Julia Pistell in a special presentation by The Friends of The Mark Twain House & Museum.
Tickets are $40 ($30 for Mark Twain House & Museum members and Hartford Stage subscribers) and can be obtained by calling 860-527-5151 or going online to www.hartfordstage.org. The event will be followed by a dessert reception and book signing.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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