BWW Reviews: APT's Sarah Day Delivers Magnificent THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING
Perhaps the power of American Players Theatre can be determined by an audience's silence when exiting the Touchstone Theater after a Sunday evening performance, the haunting quiet almost reverent appreciation for what had transpired minutes before. In Spring Green, Sarah Day illuminates the stage in an approximately one hour forty five minute no intermission performance. APT's one woman play retells award winning author Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, a play she adapted in 2007 based on her memoir from the year after her husband John Gregory Dunne died in 2003. A time in her life when Didion simultaneously coped with her only child Quintana's septic shock, her recently married daughter often suffering in the hospital's ICU hovering between life and death.
Day relates Didion's memoir in the style of a grand storyteller to mesmerize the audience, a rare thing for an intense almost two hours on stage, exposing Didion's anguish the entire performance. Evocative, luminous and powerful, Day sits on one contemporary chair or moves to one of several multi-legal platforms where white candles burn at the edges. An elegant and spiritual stage design reminiscent of an altar designed by Yu Shibagaki, which allows Day to do what she does best with incredible mastery--tell DIdion's story.
With a sacred respect for the grieving process, Day expresses Didion's pschological and intellectual pain while emotionally stumbling to understand the great "whys?" in life. Why do two people that can say "I love you more than one more day" to each other suddenly have one of them ripped from each other's arms too soon? A person one trusts most in life, often parents, or mothers similar to Didion, who try to keep their children safe from all harm.
These beliefs and hopes become fallacies. Any parent knows there are no ways to keep someone safe, least of all a child. Didion's remark to Quintana, "You're safe, I'm here" can only be magical thinking as well as believing someone who dies will return. If a person might be blessed enough to love someone that deeply, whether a friend, partner or a child, the fear of that grief, of loss, resonates as the quintessential paradigm in any relationship. The closer two people become to each other, the more attached, the greater the grief will be, and the loss with cause unimaginable pain. In any relationship, thist fear needs to be overcome for the relationship to move forward and often prevents meaningful relationships where individuals become vulnerable to one another, even for parents.
On this particular Sunday afternoon before the theatre, word came to this reviewer that someone close lost her 31 year old son in a drowning accident over the July 4th weekend, a day where life changes in an instant. A productive young life full of promise, similar to Didion's daughter Quintana, suddenly departed and gone. And another conversation brought the news someone else close lost their mother. The week continued, moved ahead as life does, and one can only grapple with the loss, grieving, in their own way, with Didion's individual mourning to ponder after the moving performance.
In the production, Day examines this grief through Didion's use of control and her comphrehnsive education on the facts of John's death and Quinatana's treatment. Perhaps Day reached from her mother's heart with unimaginable belivabilty. A performance staged with amazing pace and directed almost perfectly by Artistic Director Brenda DeVita. The two women unquestionably demonstrate the untouched resources of gifted women to create magnificent theater anywhere.
APT's magnificent theatre set in a majestic natural setting will inspire anyone in the audience to rethink how they have or will deal with loss and grief. How they would spend at least one year of magical thinking when someone they love from the depths of their soul leaves them alone, to eat dinner by themselves and listen to only silence when there once was a fire burning at home for two or three to read the newspaper by.
Eventually what returns to those left behind might be the knowledge that life, the world, indeed ebbs and flows with continual change as Didion discovered through studying geography. Or one can alternately display gratitude. Gratitude for the time they, a person, loved another person and the time they experienced together. Because life would have been so less fulfilling and rich without this love, this person in life. And as Day reminds the audience through Didion's words: Llfe can change in an instant. You can sit down to dinner and life as you know this ends.
APT and the marvelous Day revisit The Year of Magical Thinking to help audiences remember life remains a precious and priceless gift even when grieving. Filled with moments to cherish, to love with exceptional courage gratitude for the continual ebbs and flow life brings to each and everyone.
American Players Theatre presents The Year of Magical Thinking at Spring Green's Touchstone Theater through October. For further infomation or tickets, please call 608.588.2361 or www.americanplayers.org