I went with my first born to see The Year Of Magical Thinking on Broadway this week and it turned out to be a very weird experience.
When I came back to my seat after my quick pre-show run to the ladies room (I knew there wasn't going to be an intermission) the elderly lady next to me didn't want to move her Cape Cod-ish straw hat off my seat, made a big deal about it, like this was her hat's seat. And then right after the lights went down and the first curtain falls, the elderly lady and her elderly Brooks Brothers-y type husband had on those amplification headsets and they whispered so loudly to eachother, I think everyone in the audience could hear them. She then hogged the arm rest and got her knees into my knee-space, which I think must have been punishment for taking her hat's seat.
And then, I don't know why, but people started leaving in the middle of the play. Which is really disconcerting during such an intimate and intense show with a one person cast. First a man with a cane hobbled up the center aisle and I thought, oh he must have some legitimate problem, I don't know what, something, because this is a really rude thing to do. But, someone else with a lot of noisy shopping bags hurried out of the theater a few minutes later and I thought, okay, well, maybe they didn't know what the show was going to be about and they couldn't handle the subject matter. Then a couple of others followed. The couple sitting on the other side of my first born got up and left too. This was more than halfway through. So I was trying to figure out how the play could be THAT offensive or upsetting or boring. With only maybe ten or fifteen minutes left of the play--you could feel the ending coming to conclusions like breaking waves (a very poetic observation astutely made by my first born)--two or three more people left. One of these people, a very large man, then tried to come back and there was a little drama, an usher grabbed him and made him sit in the last row. But, the most brainless theatergoer was the woman who stood at the back of the theater by a side exit and talked on her cell phone.
The absolute weirdest event, I mean most surrealist of all though, was when, a couple of minutes before the end of play, I thought maybe something fell off my lap, my program or something, onto my feet. But then suddenly my first born, who was wearing flipflops whispered, "something just ran over my feet" and of course it turned out I hadn't dropped anything off my lap so, you know, she was right, something had just scampered by...
With all that going on, it was a little hard to concentrate... and maybe this explains why, even though I thought Vanessa Redgrave's performance was stunning and Joan Didion's writing was full of brilliantly myopic self-observations, I didn't love The Year Of Magical Thinking.
One thing though, the play made me miss my friend Rosemary Breslin terribly. Rosemary is mentioned in The Year Of Magical Thinking once. She was married to Joan Didion's nephew Tony who is mentioned in the play several times because of the way he showed up for Joan even when she didn't realize she was going to need him. I can imagine Rosemary had a lot to do with Tony showing up. She was a stand-up girl. Tough. Funny. Brilliant. The one time she is mentioned in the play is when Tony calls Joan with bad news about her daughter, but Joan thinks the call is going to be about Rosemary who was very sick, always one or two steps ahead of death for like twenty years even though no one would ever know it because Rosemary was such an athlete and an optimist and funny and so interested in other people and never so self-absorbed. From when they were kids, Rosemary was like a sister to my husband and a true and kind friend to me, and she was my first born's godmother.
This is Rosemary with my first born not long after she was born. And, The Year Of Magical Thinking has made me think about Rosemary's genius book Not Exactly What I had In Mind - An Incurable Love Story which I love and appreciate more each time I read it. Her book is kind of the opposite of The Year Of Magical Thinking.... sort of Rosemary's years of extremely realistic and practical thinking. It is a wonderful funny true totally original book about love and figuring out who you are and life and death and it is possible Joan is mentioned in Not Exactly What I Had In Mind, I don't remember, but Rosemary opens her book with the most brilliant first line ever of a love story: "I think I found my husband's next wife."