Joan Didion’s stage adaptation of her 2005 memoir, "The Year of Magical Thinking," is a wrenchingly meditative one-hander that delves into the mechanics of loss – namely, the sudden death of Didion’s longtime husband and writing partner, John Gregory Dunne, and the agonizingly prolonged decline of her beloved daughter, Quintana.
Dunne’s death was nearly instantaneous. Quintana, on the other hand, succumbed only after the course of many months and several mysterious maladies.
Quintana died after Didion’s book had already gone to press, and Didion’s controversial refusal to delay publication and update her work is addressed in her play – sometimes to a fault. Strikingly, the death of Dunne gets somewhat short shrift while Quintana’s more gradual attenuation is more exhaustively described.
Vanessa Redgrave starred in the London and New York productions. The current Los Angeles premiere at the Elephant Stages features Judy Jean Berns, a slender and attractive older woman who, under the direction of David Robinson, imbues her performance with considerable skill and sincerity.