After the past 14-day week, I decided to reward myself with a night on Broadway Friday night. The show was free of charge, thanks to a generous gift certificate given to me last year by my Atlanta girlfriends right before my big move to NYC. (Best gift ever, let me say.)
Well, I opted for Vanessa Redgrave in Joan Didion's one-woman play "The Year of Magical Thinking," based on Didion's book about the sudden death of her husband John Gregory Dunne in 2003. Who could pass up sitting Orchestra Row B, aisle seat - about 15 feet from the stage? You need to sit close to watch a master at work.
This tale of death and remembrance and all the things we mortals do to stave off bad things drew me in immediately. I could relate to Didion's practice of "magical thinking" - "If I do thus-and-so this particular way/time/place then [insert bad think here] won't happen/[insert good thing here] will happen."
Yes, it's a primitive ritual ("If we sacrifice this virgin, then the gods will favor us"), but that doesn't prevent the belief that I can keep my Kate safe as long as I save her last message on my voicemail. (Once she leaves a new message, I erase the previous one. I mean, let's not go overboard here.) Or doing X-Y-Z in a particular order when I arrive at work "ensures" a trouble-free day. How silly is that? But I'm not tempting fate to change it. Magical thinking.
Back to the performance. Redgrave sucks you right in. She seems to direct things right at YOU as she scans the audience. The telling of this tale of loss - not only of her husband, but of her daughter as well - touches on everything we've felt (for those of us who have experienced the death of a loved one) or everything we fear and know we'll feel when we do lose someone. The disbelief. The confusion. The big old emptiness inside. And Vanessa Redgrave makes you feel it, too.
Didion wrote it. Redgrave performed it. Magical thinking.