Orange County Theatre Reviews


eActress Linda Purl

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

The Year of Magical Thinking is based on the award-winning book of the same name, taken directly from the true life horrors of author Joan Didion.  I choose the word “horrors” because The Year of Magical Thinking resembles nothing more closely than  a hostage situation in which the audience sits captive while performer Linda Purl acts out chapters of agony from Didion’s book.  We are treated to heavy doses of depression without any benefits of such a medicine.  At best it is dull, at worst it is painful.

Meet author Joan Didion, a woman struggling with the death of her husband and the eventual death of her daughter.  Through her perspective we watch and listen to how she staves off the pangs of dealing with her husband’s death by imagining that he will return at any moment, that she is only “pretending” to grieve, as she learns the names of all the medications that the doctors are pumping into her daughter’s body daily, and precisely how she felt when she (her daughter) underwent a procedure that involved having her skull stapled.   It is a one-woman show and as such does not require any furniture more elaborate than a chair, a table, and a glass of water which give it a very “therapeutic venting” type of feel.

Since watching the show I have heard from many people that the book actually has many fascinating and uplifting moments.  If that is in fact true I have no idea how the producers selected which sections they wanted for the stage adaptation because there is nothing even remotely fascinating and uplifting to be found here.  I do not mean to indicate that in order to be worthwhile a piece must be uplifting, it certainly does not.  However, it would be nice if it were more than one thing.  From beginning to end The Year of Magical Thinking is pain.  Misery.  Death.  And the thing is, the presentation is effective.

Linda Purl’s acting is quite good, watching her there was a genuine feeling of this just being a conversation with a woman who has lost her entire family before your very eyes.  The sound effects are certainly effective at transporting one to a different location, with the sounds of hospital machines successfully inspiring a feeling of  tension and worry.   But the story is simply not adapted well, even as a piece meant to inspire feelings of sorrow, that is all there is–sorrow.  Not a cautionary tale, or a tale of how to overcome adversity.  Just a very straight forward tale of death without any hope or even concern.


Ticket Info at the website:

Location & Dates :  

606 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

October 8, 2014 – November 2, 2014 

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