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Life Changes in an Instant

By Jim Newell

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

These are the words written by writer Joan Didion upon the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne in 2003. Two years later she wrote The Year of Magical Thinking, describing her experience in the year after his death. The book was on The New York Times bestseller list, won the 2005 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for biography/autobiography. It was described by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times as “an indelible portrait of loss and grief.”A year later, Didion adapted the memoir into  a one-woman play. Starring Vanessa Redgrave, it opened at the Booth Theatre in New York on March 29, 2007, and received glowing reviews.

“Poignant, heartbreaking and wry… In Joan Didion’s beautifully written play, the emotions are so genuine we can’t help but be deeply affected.” Newsweek.

“Didion has a peerless ear for the music of the words in motion.” The New York Times:

“Didion’s play takes the audience on a journey through the grieving process. She wants us to be prepared. She advises: ‘You see me on this stage, you sit next to me on a plane, you run into me at dinner, you know what happened to me. You don’t want to think it could happen to you. That’s why I’m here.’” She recounts the insidious and rarely addressed sense of unreality that is part of grief, focusing on the “magical thinking” that permeated her thoughts during that first year when, for example, she realized that she could not give away her husband’s shoes because he would need them when he returned.

This is a serious piece of writing about a serious and universal life event. Despite this, however, and perhaps because humor is often what gets us through the most difficult challenges in life, Didion’s account is laced with an understated and quiet irony that only serves to make it more poignant.

Phoebe Greyson, (whom you may remember for her prior role as Maria Callas in Master Class), plays the role of Joan Didion. Jim Newell directs. Lou Barranti does lights and sound.

The Year of Magical Thinking will be presented in the Parish Hall of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Cardo 6, Wednesday and Thursday, September 3 and 4. Tickets go on sale at 6:45pm each evening, on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 7pm. All ticket holders must be present at 7pm when the doors open, or their ticket may be resold. The play commences at 7:30pm or earlier if the house is full before that time. Admission is 20 pesos and exact change is appreciated.


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