Tag Archives: Jenny Sullivan

Grieving from New York City : Ensemble presents Joan Didion’s play about death

Linda Purl DAVID BAZEMORE PHOTO
Linda Purl
DAVID BAZEMORE PHOTO

Here are the facts: One day in 2003, author Joan Didion sat down for dinner with her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne. After some small talk he keeled over dead from a heart attack. This happened while their daughter, Quintana, was in the hospital in a coma from septic shock. Two years later, she too died.

More facts: Ms. Didion’s memoir of that time, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” was released to great critical acclaim, placing it in the company of other noted writing on grief. After her daughter passed away, she adapted, lengthened, and changed the book into a one-woman show for Broadway, where it starred Vanessa Redgrave. And now Ensemble Theater Company, with Linda Purl starring and Jenny Sullivan directing, opened this last weekend.

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Year Staring Death in the Face : LINDA PURL PLAYS JOAN DIDION IN ENSEMBLE’S ONE-WOMAN SHOW

 Director Jenny Sullivan, left, and Linda Purl David Bazemore photo

Director Jenny Sullivan, left, and Linda Purl
David Bazemore photo

When Joan Didion’s book “The Year of Magical Thinking” debuted in 2005, it gained accolades as one of the finest contemporary books about the grieving process. Written in 88 days, Ms. Didion took on a time of double tragedy: the sudden death of her husband John Gregory Dunne from cardiac arrest, and the long illness of their daughter, who passed away just as Ms. Didion finished the manuscript.

Two years later, with David Hare directing and Vanessa Redgrave starring, “The Year of Magical Thinking” made its way to Broadway with Ms. Didion’s own adaptation of the book into a play. Five years and many accolades later, our Ensemble Theater Company, with Jenny Sullivan directing and Linda Purl starring, bring Ms. Didion’s one-woman play to Santa Barbara.

Continue reading Year Staring Death in the Face : LINDA PURL PLAYS JOAN DIDION IN ENSEMBLE’S ONE-WOMAN SHOW

Quick, Quick Change – ‘The Mystery of Irma Vep’ comes to Ensemble

Joseph Fuqua, left, and Jamie Torcellini, right, are a handful to keep track of in "The Mystery of Irma Vep." David Bazemore Photos
Joseph Fuqua, left, and Jamie Torcellini, right, are a handful to keep track of in “The Mystery of Irma Vep.”
David Bazemore Photos

Murder. Mystery. Mummies. Vampires. Wolfmen. Is this Christmas? At Ensemble Theater Company, it sure is, with the preview night Thursday of “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” a very light, very ridiculous work of theater meant to bring some levity in the middle of a dramatic season. Featuring only two actors but over eight roles, the evening requires many quick costume changes behind the scenes (over 30!), and loads of gender switching. In other words, yes, we have men in drag. Deck the halls!

Charles Ludlam wrote 29 plays in his short life, most of them comedies. Many are considered by critics and companies to be unmountable, as they were so intertwined with Ludlam’s persona. But “The Mystery of Irma Vep” is not that kind of play. Possibly Ludlam’s crowning achievement, it provides a series of memorable characters as well as postmodern pastiches of everything from “Rebecca,” “Wuthering Heights” and “Gaslight” to penny dreadfuls and Universal horror movies. His company was called the Ridiculous Theatrical Company — located in Greenwich Village, New York City — and the name indicates what Ludlam was after.

Continue reading Quick, Quick Change – ‘The Mystery of Irma Vep’ comes to Ensemble