Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Stevens shines in ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’

Janis Stevens stars in “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which plays through Nov. 25 in the Dennis Wilkerson Theater at the R25 Arts Complex, 1721 25th St., in Midtown Sacramento. Courtesy photo

By
From page A9 | November 06, 2012 | Leave Comment

What: ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’

Where: Dennis Wilkerson Theater at the R25 Arts Complex, 1721 25th St. (25th and R streets), Sacramento

When: 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 25.

Tickets: $25 general, $20 students, military, SARTA members and seniors

Info: 916-451-5822

The recipe for an instant five-star production in the Sacramento area: cast Janis Stevens.

I have seen Stevens in several productions — including one-woman shows “Master Class” and “Vivien” — and she now adds another stellar performance, playing Joan Didion in Didion’s stage adaptation of her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Year of Magical Thinking.” The play is currently at Sacramento’s Wilkerson Theater (formerly California Stage), under the impeccable direction of Ray Tatar.

Didion’s husband, author John Gregory Dunne, suddenly died of a heart attack one night as she was mixing the salad for dinner. The play details her travel through grief during that first awful year, a year in which her daughter also was dying of many infections in many hospitals (she finally did die the following year).

“This happened on Dec. 30, 2003,” the character begins the play, staring out into the audience. “That may seem a while ago, but it won’t when it happens to you. And it will happen to you. The details will be different, but it will happen to you. That is what I’m here to tell you.”

As her husband lay on the floor of their apartment being attended by paramedics, Didion took charge. She got the paperwork in order, she followed in a second ambulance to the hospital — the “wrong” hospital, she notes, planning to move him as soon as he was stable. She stood in line to fill out paperwork. She took charge.

But he was dead. She knew he was dead when she had a social worker assigned to her, but in her mind she felt that if the doctor didn’t say the words, maybe her husband wasn’t really dead. She demanded answers from the physician. The social worker gave him permission to give her the facts. “It’s OK,” he said. “She’s a pretty cool customer.” She was cool on the outside. Inside she was crumbling, but she coped. She took charge.

Life changes in an instant an ordinary instant

I don’t know what experiences Stevens may have had with personal loss, but she nailed the emotions of someone trying to make sense of something that makes no sense. Whether she is cool and calm, talking about moving from day to day, alternately making arrangements for burying her husband, and then visiting her dying daughter, or whether she allows herself to crumble, briefly under the weight of so much pain, it is a journey that those who have been through themselves will find very familiar.

She admits that she sounds crazy when she can’t give away her husband’s shoes, even weeks after his death (though she has given away bags and bags of his clothing), because when he comes back he will need shoes.

If she corrects an error in the galleys of his book, completed shortly before his death, will he be upset with her?

A grieving person straddles two worlds, the real one in which she lives, and the magical one in which somehow, the deceased is still present and may be coming back. Stevens handles this dichotomy beautifully, its symbolism represented by the yin-yang design on the stage floor.

The set design by Ken Kurtis is stark, but the sweeping design painted on the walls neatly suggests the “vortexes” that a grieving person goes through during their year of magical thinking, trying to find a way to the “new normal.” Grief comes in waves, at times when you least expect it. You may think you’re doing fine and then the memories flood in and you have to deal with them. For someone like Didion, for whom being in control … “being right” … is so important, the vortexes are perhaps more painful.

The only unfortunate thing about this wonderful production is that there were only 20 people in the audience the night I saw it. The show deserves a larger audience, even if the thought of dealing with someone’s grief is a scary thing. The script is not really a downer, but has enough humor to keep the audience snickering with Didion throughout.

Try to catch this show. It will be a night you will long remember.

It will happen to you. The details will be different, but it will happen to you.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Benefit set for local bike legend

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A1

     
     
    Downtown post office set to reopen

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3

    Run or walk to prevent child abuse in Yolo County

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Nominations sought for charity paint giveaway

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

     
    Scholar will discuss human trafficking in Friday talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Per Capita Davis: Now, for some good news

    By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A4

     
    Birch Lane hosts 50th anniversary party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Hannah Stein reads poetry at gallery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Food Co-op to offer free bags on Earth Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Get in the picture with school board candidate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Tickets on sale for Pence Garden Tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    KDVS hosts on-air fundraiser April 21-27

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Fundraiser planned for Allen’s campaign

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Food Co-op board plans open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Downtown hosts candidate forum

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A4

    Learn more about Google Glass at talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Barbecue celebrates winter shelter program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Sign of things to come

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A8

     
    Davis Soroptimists celebrate 60 years

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    .

    Forum

    A great community effort

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Public Health Heroes honored

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

     
    Don’t miss a Trokanski dance

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Frank Bruni: The oldest hatred, forever young

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A6

     
    Expert: Free parking is a myth

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Have they really learned?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    River Cats’ streak reaches six wins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Landry evolves into UCD women’s lacrosse leader

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Huge inning propels Pleasant Grove past DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Giants edge Dodgers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Foster steps down as Lady Blue Devil basketball coach

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Youth roundup: Martinez, Chan come up big at gymnastics regional

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Kings drop season finale to Suns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Angels get past A’s in extras

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Wineaux: Good deals off the beaten path

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A7

     
    Rockabilly phenom to play at The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    ‘One’ singular sensation to open at DMTC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    HellaCappella showcases a cappella singing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    25th annual state clay competition exhibit at The Artery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Tapan Munroe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, April 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6