A different sort of magic is coming to Kenan Theatre.
In the last PRC2 performance of its season, PlayMakers Repertory Company is producing essayist Joan Didion’s one-woman play, “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
SEE “THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING”
When: 7:30 p.m. April 27 – May 1, 2 p.m. May 1
Where: Kenan Theatre, CDA
More info: www.playmakersrep.org
The play — which chronicles Didion’s emotional journey following the deaths of her husband and daughter — was adapted from her memoir of the same name. It opens tonight.
“Interestingly, the play’s not a big downer,” said Mark DeChiazza, the play’s director. “It’s very heavy stuff, but it’s very human.”
The story wanders back and forth in time, switching between Didion’s memories and her newly altered state of mind — or magical thinking.
“At this point, her whole conception of the world was much more fragile than she thought, even up to and including her sanity,” DeChiazza said. “She thought of herself as a rational person but couldn’t metabolize these events in a rational way.”
Ellen McLaughlin, best known for originating the role of the Angel in Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” on Broadway, plays the show’s sole role — that of Didion.
“An actress spends her life waiting for a part like this,” McLaughlin said. “I feel like I’m just at the beginning of a journey that I wish was going to go on longer.”
Prior to being cast in the show, McLaughlin had admired Didion and the memoir which detailed the death of her husband while her daughter was in the hospital.
“It’s a magnificent piece of writing, and it’s so great to get to breathe it in all the time,” she said. “You get to spend time in Joan Didion’s mind.”
Though she’s an experienced actress, McLaughlin said that performing a one hour, forty-minute show alone presented some challenges.
“You never quite feel on top of it,” she said. “It’s a little slippery, and it’s a challenge on every level, but I like doing things that are hard to do.”
Post-show conversations — a central focus of the communication-intensive PRC2 series — allow the audience to learn from the cast and crew as well as experts on the subject matter.
“The themes of this play are so universal,” said Jeffrey Meanza, PlayMakers’ associate artistic director. “Everyone will have something to say.”
Meanza said he hopes the small space of the Kenan Theatre will encourage good conversation.
“I don’t want it to get too academic because these ideas are so human,” Meanza said. “I want folks to be able to really share their stories.”
DeChiazza said that in addition to being a moving piece, the play also raises some big questions.
“We live in a bubble where we need to believe that we’re safe,” he said. “This play peels away the last veneer of wishful or magical thinking.
“It really is incomprehensible.”
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