The Year of Magical Thinking – Seana Mckenna performs at the NAC

Jessey is a writer, digital communications strategist, and the founder of Local Tourist Ottawa.

“I love you more than one more day.”

When I first heard that Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking had been adapted into a play and was showing at the National Art Centre’s English Theatre, I was thrilled.

A few years ago I picked up Didion’s book, and I literally didn’t put it down until I finished. I know a lot of people say this when they are describing a book that they love…but I actually couldn’t put it down. I ate a box of crackers for lunch that day, because it was the only ‘meal’ I could think of that required no preparation.

The story is this:  just a few days after her daughter Quintana was admitted to hospital with a life-threatening illness, Didion’s husband suddenly died from a heart attack. I’m not a book reviewer, but I will say that this memoir is overwhelmingly sad – it is the author’s true story of grief and loss, told with meticulous detail and unabated analysis.

In short: it is the kind of book that makes you look very closely at your life.

But as it turns out, I was actually hesitant to see this play because the story stirred such a strong reaction in me. I didn’t want a live performance to ruin the impression that the book had left, but I also wasn’t sure if seeing something so sad portrayed on stage would at all be enjoyable.

I’m also not a theatre critic, but I will say that if you haven’t yet seen Seana McKenna’s very honest, very skilled performance of Didion’s story, you really should get tickets. Beyond the sheer commitment it must have taken for her to memorize 90-minutes (without break) of such difficult script, her performance was absolutely perfect.

Here’s a short excerpt from a Toronto review:

“She gives a tightly controlled portrait of Didion the intellectual, who hides behind a shield of carefully crafted words to keep her emotions at bay…But the narrator is distancing herself as well as the audience, and McKenna’s restrained performance only makes the eventual appearance of cracks in her veneer more wrenching.”

Of the purpose of the play, Didion once said: “What we wanted to do with this is somehow make a strong, strong moment in somebody’s evening…I will be really happy if that happens once.”

Well, mission accomplished.

Have a look:

Interested in seeing the show? There are only two performances left. Get your tickets, fast.