By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The play hangs almost entirely on Didion's words, and on Berns' capacity to imbue them with the ruminative wisdom that is Didion's calling card. When Quintana was in a coma after Dunne's death, Didion ordered the hospital to shut off the TV. Didion didn't want her to learn about her father's demise from CNN. The next day, CNN was back on again, and Didion raised hell. The following day, she walked in the room to find a note on the TV, which was indeed off: "Dead father, no TV."
In reporting that story, there's a twinkle in Berns' eye, a sly twist of the upper lip, affirming the story's perverse humor. In this way, Berns keeps probing that ever-so-delicate terrain between the maudlin and the glib. The rendition is intelligent and thoughtful. It commands you to listen and absorb the nuances of anguish. There is no invitation to wallow, and no attempt by Berns, or Didion, to do so.
This is not a drama — despite the dramatic agony of love and loss that's the wellspring of most dramas. Instead, this is a meditation on that drama and it can be appreciated only on those terms.
6322 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Yet one wonders if each of the play's sections were more tautly defined, and its transitions marked more strongly, the parts that make up the whole wouldn't blur into each other as they now do. This would be a subtle but powerful sharpening — very much possible in the show's extended run — that would transform what's now a flat and sandy beachhead where Didion does battle between meaning and meaninglessness into a slope leading toward the horizon that seems to be Didion's destination: solace.
In the play, she reads from the book that inspired it: "This in turn enabled me to find meaning in the Episcopal litany, most accurately in the words as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, which I interpreted as a literal description of the constant changing of the earth, the unending erosion of the shores and the mountains, the inexorable shifting of the geological structures that could throw up mountains and islands and could just as reliably take them away. No eye was on the sparrow. No one was watching me."
She repeats the litany, "World without end. ... Do we get more comfort than that?"
THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING | By Joan Didion, adapted by Didion for the stage from her memoir | Presented by Bright Eyes Productions at Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. | Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through Oct. 14 | (323) 960-7774 | plays411.com/magicalthinking