jakub | November 2, 2023

AMERICAN THEATRE | ‘Thinking’ Small and Local

Kathleen Chalfant in the Keen Company's “The Year of Magical Thinking.” (Photo by Carol Rosegg)

If you were lucky enough to catch Keen Company’s mobile production of The Year of Magical Thinking in New York last fall, you might have seen artistic director Jonathan Silverstein’s intimate, witty, wrenching interpretation of Joan Didion’s one-person play, adapted by the celebrated author from her bestselling memoir of grief, in a swanky townhouse on the Upper East Side. Or you could have caught it at a church in Queens, or in several other homes and community centers scattered throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

Now Silverstein is partnering with New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre to present Magical Thinking at various locations in the region, again with his longtime collaborator Kathleen Chalfant, a local favorite since her performance in Long Wharf’s production of Margaret Edson’s Wit more than 25 years ago, in the lead role. It’s a fortuitous union for Long Wharf, which has become an itinerant company since they left their performance space last October.

Like Chalfant, Silverstein is no stranger to Long Wharf: Keen’s production of Conor McPherson’s The Good Thief, presented during its first season more than two decades ago, subsequently moved to the Connecticut theatre. Silverstein said he’s thrilled to partner with Long Wharf artistic director Jacob Padrón to show “that theatre can happen anywhere. I applaud the bold choice that Long Wharf is making in moving outside the building and into the community.”

One difference between the show’s New York bow and its New Haven run (Nov. 8-Dec. 3): It will be offered in more homes than apartments this time around. But as in New York, it will appear in a diverse assortment of settings (“Three living rooms and two community centers a week,” Silverstein explained), to stress that Didion’s account of grappling with the deaths of her husband and fellow writer, John Gregory Dunne, and their adult daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, “isn’t just for upper-middle class and well-off white people. We learned so much by being in the Bronx as opposed to Brooklyn. I know that in the New Haven area we’re going to have that same breadth of experience, and it’s just going to deepen the piece and its relationship to the audience.”

Elysa Gardner is a theatre and music critic based in New York.

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