From April 9 to the 21st, Prairie Theatre Exchange is presenting a one-woman play that is a beautifully meditative tale of loss, and our own mortality.

Based on The American Novelist Joan Didion’s Pulitzer nominated autobiographical book The Year of Magical Thinking. This play of the same name is Joan Didion’s adaptation of her book. The play also draws on themes to come from her final memoir “Blue Nights.”

After 40 years of Marriage to her husband John Gregory Dunne, Didion recounts the feelings and emotions she dealt with after her husband’s death just one month prior to their 40th Anniversary. The writing is an exploration of the gamut of the emotions we feel after such a significant loss.

Rather than being a downer, the writing is exhilarating. The New York Times describes Didion’s telling of her story as an adventure narrative and both the book and the resulting play have been hailed by critics and audiences around the world with The Guardian Listing “The Year of Magical Thinking as being ranked 40th on their list of 100 best book of the 21 century.

Joan Didion was a writer and journalist. In addition to her novels, she also wrote for Vogue, Esquire, The New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post. She passed away in 2021 and her novel The Year of Magical Thinking which was written in 2004 ended up being her bestselling book.

The Year of Magical Thinking depicts Didion’s struggles as she tries to deal with the loss of her husband John Gregory Dunne and all of the grief surrounding his death. Added to the stress of his passing; right around the same time, her daughter Quintana experiences some pretty significant health problems and Didion is forced to cope with those challenges as well. The play lasts 90 minutes without intermission. Any casual observer may think that it is a hugely daunting task for the actor to portray this character and the deep emotions in the play for that length of time, but for actor Monique Marcker there are ways around that obstacle.

Marcker plays the sole character in the play. She has found that dealing with the story the character is trying to tell is the best way to overcome that problem. As she explains, “It’s interesting because it was terrifying when I first thought about it…but once you get into the story; and it’s such a shared experience…the story she is telling to the audience…she just starts reliving her story and it just kind of carries you. So it doesn’t become as daunting.”

The play is in nine scenes that act like chapters in a book. As Marcker says ”During those nine scenes they deal with… in some ways all the stages of grief…denial, bartering…acceptance at the end…so we see those stage of grief throughout.” Marcker goes on to state, “I think Joan gave words to people on how to express their grief…and you go a little crazy [when dealing with loss]… she allowed people permission to feel whatever you need to feel. Grief is a journey that none of us know until we reach it.”

Marcker says that at every performance she has different scene partners, so every show is different. The second scene partner is the audience. As she explains, “Sometimes people will laugh more…sometimes they’ll be more quiet…sometimes I can feel people or see people or hear people getting very emotional and crying and that effects how I feel and what is happening right on stage. It’s a very powerful relationship that hopefully is formed throughout the play.”

Experience that deep relationship by checking out this play that is guaranteed to stay with you for a long, long time. The Year of Magical Thinking takes place at Prairie Theatre exchange until April 21. For more details visit PTE’s website.