HOW TO THINK YOUR WAY PAST GRIEF MAGICALLY
        BONNIE GOLDBERG

    Imagine the unthinkable, losing your husband and only child in the span of a year.  For Joan Didion, journalist, essayist and novelist, that was a painful reality in 2005.  Her husband and writing partner of forty years, John Gregory Dunne, died suddenly of a heart attack and her daughter, Quintana Roo, 39, died after an extended illness.
    To work through her grief, Didion penned a book “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which won the National Book Award and which she adapted into a one woman play.  From now until Sunday, May 24, TheaterWorks of Hartford will be presenting this intimate, poignant and powerful tale starring the legendary Annalee Jeffries in its Connecticut premiere.
    Didion, who has been hailed as “the finest woman prose stylist writing in English today” by novelist and poet James Dickey, uses the written word as therapy to try and understand what went wrong in her world.  This is a cautionary tale, as she wants the audience to be aware that what happened to her could happen to you.
    When her novelist, screenwriter and literary critic husband died  unexpectedly on December 30, 2003, at the same moment her precious daughter was in an induced coma, Didion found that life can change in an instant, that grief has its place but also its limits, and that the writer’s instincts to constantly “revise” work unfortunately don’t apply to life.  She wanted a “do over,” a new ending, so that even as she went through the rituals of a funeral she was preparing for John to return.  She couldn’t give away his shoes because he would need them when he came back.
    Annalee Jeffries is wonderfully convincing as she takes us through that unimaginable time when she tried to “see it straight,” when the sea went silent, when she attempts to correct the reversible error.  Artistic director Steve Campo keeps a taut and sensitive hold on the personal, intensely internal exploration of feelings.
    For tickets ($37-58), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.  Special midweek matinee is Wednesday, May 13 at 2:30 p.m.  Come early to visit the theater’s Main Lobby and Gallery of American Art and partake of bin 228 bistro cuisine and wine.  The current art exhibit is “Singular Woman,” painting portraits from the New Britain Museum of Art.
    Learn how Joan Didion used “magical thinking” to survive a time when everyone of importance in her life was snatched away in an instant.

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