May 24, 2013
Written by Joanne Greco Rochman
Thursday, 28 June 2012 11:33
Most readers have experienced the death of someone they cared for deeply. Joan Didion, an extraordinarily gifted writer has managed to do the near impossible. She talks intelligently and analytically about the death of her husband and her daughter, but she does so without relying on emotion.
Rather, she distances herself from the reality of the tragic events that she has experienced. And so she tells her story of of life and death and manages to do so without ever losing hope.
This is a play based on the real life experiences of the author. She and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, had been visiting their daughter in the hospital regularly as the young woman, in a coma, battled septic shock.
Every day, her mother would go to the hospital telling her daughter quite simply, “I am here.”
It was as if she was saying it’s all right now. Mother is here and you will be safe. And so enters that “magical” kind of thinking, when one truly believes that he/she can assure what cannot possibly be assured.
Ms. Didion studies everything about her daughter’s condition. She speaks intelligently and knowledgeably to doctors and does all the right things.
As if it weren’t painful enough to see her only daughter, who had just recently been married, so gravely ill, suddenly Ms. Didion’s husband dies.
How and where does one get the courage, the strength to go on? So much tragedy and yet this woman can speak about it... or can she? Perhaps, we are listening to a woman who has so distanced herself from the tragic events that she has lost her mnd.
Interestingly enough, on the cover of the playbill there is the line, “Hope is a choice.” In retrospect, those are startling and meaning-“full” words. What is more, they let the audience know that there’s more going on in this magical way of thinking than loss and despair.
Renowned actress Maureen Anderman stars in the one-woman show and gives a commanding performance. She manages to hold the audience’s rapt attention for 90 minutes without interruption. Hanging on every word she utters, the audience recognizes the breadth of the story and the skill of the actress as well.
However, having seen this production before, I was surprised that Anderman played it with great solemnity. There is humor in this play, but I did not laugh in this production.
Nicholas Martin directs this show by underlining the drama with understatement, which is reflected in Alexander Dodge’s brilliantly vast set and accented by Philip Rosenberg’s lighting design and Drew Levy’s sound design.
The production runs through June 30. Box office: 203-227-4177.
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