Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Year of Magical Thinking

By Joan Didion

the year of magical thinking, mary beth fisher
The Year of Magical Thinking, staring Mary Beth Fisher

Directed by Charles Newell

At Court Theatre

Joan Didion’s story is an intelligent, honest and moving presentation on grieving. It is marvelously presented by Mary Beth Fisher.

One person shows are difficult to stage and more difficult to hold an audience but Mary Beth Fisher does that we ease, with poise and with loads of truth as she narrates novelist Joan Didion’s book The Year of Magical Thinking.  Talking about the death of one’s husband and one’s daughter can turn into a sobbing, sad and morbid affair but Didion is such a clever, witty writer and Mary Beth Fisher is such an honest, polished and sincere actor that The Year of Magical Thinking becomes a thought provoking and  intelligent look at surviving after the sudden lose of a spouse and the long-term destruction of a daughter.

the year of magical thinking, mary beth fisher

Didion through a litany of personal stories and antidotes  deals with her grieving process that moves from denial to delusion to self-pity to ultimate acceptance. This wonderfully presented journey is a dissertation of how a strong–always in control woman–comes to terms with drastic changes that occurs with the death of a close loved one.  Fisher skillfully presents Didion’s trek through the mind games and adjustments that happens when death interrupts the status quo.

Told in a 95 minute one act on a isolated rectangular floor in the middle of a dark stage (set design by John Culbert) with unique lighting effects (by Jennifer Tipton), The Year of Magical Thinking creates the proper atmosphere to underscore Didion’s narrative. The second part of Didion’s story deals with her both helping and denying the outcome her sickly daughter through a catastrophic illness. Fisher deftly channels us through Didion’s world  devoid of sentimentality and whinny ‘why me Lord?’ angst. The power of this theatrical piece lies in the subdued message on overcoming self-pity and grief. We all will face these issues and Didion and Fisher offer clues on how to dignify our reaction to loss. This is a moving theatrical experience about an important subject that we often ignore. Mary Beth Fisher is terrific.


Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

At Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, Chicago, IL, call 773-753-4472,, tickets $32 – $56, running time is 95 minutes without intermission, Wednesday & Thursdays at 7;30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 pm, through February 14, 2010

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