Unthinkable things happen to people, even good people, like car crashes, chronic illnesses, and, the inevitable worst case scenario, death. Joan Didion, journalist, essayist and novelist, is all too familiar with the curses and tragedies of life as she received a double dose of direness that was a painful reality in the two years from 2003 to 2005. Her husband and writing partner of forty years, John Gregory Dunne, died suddenly 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 Saturday, June 30, Westport Country Playhouse will be presenting this personal, poignant and powerful tale starring the legendary Maureen Anderman.


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 of a heart attack, at the same moment her precious daughter was in an induced coma suffering from septic shock, 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.


Maureen Anderman 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 Nicholas Martin keeps a taut and sensitive hold on the personal, intensely intimate and internal exploration of feelings.


For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport, off route 1, at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org. ; Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.


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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