A journey through grief at Baxter

Dorothy Ann Gould in The Year of Magical Thinking.

American writer Joan Didion’s play, The Year of Magical Thinking, based on her memoir and starring Dorothy Ann Gould, directed by Mark Graham Wilson, made its Cape Town debut at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, yesterday Tuesday July 3 and runs until Saturday July 28, at 7.30pm.

Gould recently received the Naledi Innovation in Theatre award for her significant contribution to the advancement and development of South African theatre.

The Year of Magical Thinking is a journey through one of the most universal experiences of human suffering: bereavement.

First directed by David Hare and performed by Vanessa Redgrave at the Booth Theatre in New York in 2007, the one-hander ran for 24 weeks.

The memoir, upon which the play is based, won the National Book Award in 2005 and was short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

It chronicles the year following the death of Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne — an unexpected and sudden end of a 40-year partnership — just days after their only child, Quintana, had fallen dangerously ill and slipped into a coma.

Faced with the unshakable finality of John’s death, Joan’s normally rational thought processes took a less than pragmatic turn. She found herself, for example, keeping his shoes, reasoning that he would need them when he returned. Slowly she had to recognise that, although she was going through the motions associated with the rituals of closure, she was, in fact, longing to perform an impossible trick: to bring John back. Her memoir is the story of the year she spent wishing — her year of magical thinking. During the New York promotion of the then recently published memoir, Quintana became seriously ill again. Following massive brain surgery, she died at the age of 39. Six months after her second tragedy, Didion began working on turning her memoir into a play.

This time she was dealing not only with the loss of her partner but with the loss of her entire immediate family. Booking is through Webtickets or selected Pick * Pay stores. There is an age restriction of 13. Ticket prices range from R120 (early bird special, valid until Thursday from Tuesday July 3 to Saturday July 7 and block-bookings), R160 (Monday to Wednesday) and R180 (Thursday to Saturday).