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 where the audience sits captive. At the same time, 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 isn’t exciting. At worst, it is painful.
Meet author Joan Didion, a woman struggling with her husband’s death and her daughter’s eventual death. 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 gives it a very “therapeutic venting” type of feel.
Since watching the show, I have heard from many people that the book has many fascinating and uplifting moments. Suppose that is, in fact, true. In that case, I have no idea how the producers selected which sections they wanted for the stage adaptation because there is nothing remotely fascinating and uplifting to be found here. I do not mean to indicate that 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 painful. 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 had lost her entire family before your 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 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 straightforward story 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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