Issues to Do in Miami: Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” at GableStage

Celebrated writers Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne had been married for 4 a long time, companions in life and generally of their work.

They had been, as she stated to her nephew Griffin Dunne within the 2017 Netflix documentary The Center Will Not Hold, one another’s first reader. If one wrote the primary draft of a screenplay, the opposite would operate as a type of “super editor” (Didion’s time period), altering and rewriting till it was practically not possible to inform who’d carried out what.

In different phrases, their lives had been uncommonly entwined.

So when Dunne died all of a sudden of a coronary heart assault in December 2003, Didion’s world was eternally altered.

After some months, the novelist-screenwriter-essayist — creator of Play It as It Lays, A Book of Common Prayer, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album, Miami, and a lot extra influential work — responded as she so typically did all through her lengthy profession. In private methods and in a bigger cultural context, she made sense of her loss and grief by writing about them in 2005’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which turned a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Didion then challenged herself by remodeling the ebook right into a play, a chunk that (not like the ebook) additionally offers with the loss of life of the couple’s beloved daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael. In 2011, Didion wrote about her relationship along with her daughter and the loss within the ebook Blue Nights. Her loss of life of acute pancreatitis on the age of 39 was lower than two years after her father’s passing.

The solo present, The Year of Magical Thinking, opened on Broadway in 2007 with the very tall Vanessa Redgrave portraying the very tiny Didion underneath the route of British playwright-screenwriter David Hare.

Paying inventive tribute to Didion, who died in December on the age of 87, GableStage is about to open a brand new manufacturing of The Year of Magical Thinking with Gainesville-based actor Sara Morsey as Didion.

A preview is about for Friday, June 3, then the play formally opens Saturday, June 4, and runs via Sunday, June 26, on the firm’s intimate area on the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

It was first produced in South Florida a dozen years in the past by the now-defunct Women’s Theatre Project. After Didion’s loss of life, GableStage producing inventive director Bari Newport made room in her inaugural season for The Year of Magical Thinking.

“At first, I thought we should do a reading of it. Then, after the omicron variant [of COVID] hit, I thought we could reimagine it in a different way. I’d read the play a number of times but had never seen it, and I wondered about doing it in an abstract way,” says Newport, who’s staging the manufacturing and directed Morsey in Ripcord when Newport was operating the Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor, Maine.

Newport’s idea is to position Morsey and thus the viewers in an area representing that magical considering — ”if I do that, then that can occur” — which Didion used to assist her cope within the yr after Dunne’s loss of life. She refused to provide his sneakers away, as an example, as a result of she knew he would want them when he got here again. Not if he got here again. When he got here again. If solely wishing may make it so.

“Sara is one of the best actresses I’ve known. She’s in incredible shape physically and mentally, which is good because there’s nowhere to sit [on the set],” Newport says. “I’ve never not seen it as an activated piece. It’s easy to just tell the audience a story. If you’re going to do that, you might as well read the book.”

click on to enlarge Bari Newport, GableStage’s producing artistic director, is directing The Year of Magical Thinking. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MAGNUS STARK

Bari Newport, GableStage’s producing inventive director, is directing The Year of Magical Thinking.

Photo courtesy of Magnus Stark

Morsey first performed Didion a decade in the past at Florida Repertory Theatre in Fort Myers. That manufacturing was carried out in a small area on a set designed to appear like an inviting room in a house.

During rehearsals, Morsey’s mom died. So the type of grief Didion expresses within the play was painfully recent.

“I thought I was too young then. Now I’m as old as Joan was when John died,” says Morsey, who will flip 70 in late June. “And I have so many more thoughts about death and grief. I never married or had children. I’ve entered that part of my life when I’m losing people. So many. COVID has done something to all of us.”

Newport concurs.

“Everybody is grieving now,” she says. “The piece is the epitome of catharsis — that’s its purpose.”

The play’s opening strains underscore the commonality of profound loss and grief.

“This happened on December 30, 2003. That may seem a while ago, but it won’t when it happens to you,” Didion wrote. ”And it should occur to you. The particulars might be totally different, however it should occur to you.”

Morsey, whose work recording audiobooks saved her busy throughout pandemic isolation, has performed some difficult and sometimes prolonged roles onstage, together with Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night, Violet Weston in August: Osage County, and Maria Callas in Master Class. But taking part in Didion is daunting in one other method, she says.

“This one’s scarier. It’s only me,” she says. “It’s also inordinately long for a one-person show…But this is really a wonderful experience.”

The present runs one hour and 40 minutes with out an intermission.

Morsey provides that as a director, Newport “is fearless and articulate. She’s very encouraging and always has more notes. You begin and end [rehearsals] in a regular space, but then you have to be ready to go.”

For her half, Newport is relishing having the ability to train her inventive muscle tissues as a director after some months of specializing in the challenges concerned in operating GableStage, together with shedding the final week of the profitable run of Boca when the newest COVID wave hit the solid.

“I love working on one-person shows. You just get to have a more intimate relationship. It’s such a personal journey. I admire Sara – she’s an effervescent, spiritual being,” says Newport, whose design staff for the manufacturing is filling the area with shifting lights, sounds, and underscoring. “This will have theatrical beauty galore.”

The play’s solely performer is fast to emphasise that, whereas she has carried out her analysis by studying Didion’s work and watching a number of video interviews with the late creator, she isn’t attempting to remodel into the girl she’s taking part in. For one factor, like Redgrave, Morsey is tall and match. Didion was petite, weighed underneath 100 kilos, and for a few years began her writing day with a chilly Coca-Cola, a handful of nuts, and one cigarette after one other.

“She had this ethereal quality. I watched a lot of her, not to be like her but to see her thinking, see how the world added up for her,” Morsey says. “I have not in any way tried to do a capturing of her personality. She’s fairly inarticulate as a speaker, but she gets it on the page — it’s totally articulate…I’m not trying to impersonate her, but I hope I’m closer to her essence.”

– Christine Dolen,

The Year of Magical Thinking. Friday, June 3, via Sunday, June 26, at GableStage within the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables; 305-445-1119; Tickets price $35 to $70.

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