Actress encored play for UNICEF benefit

FOR ONE night only, audiences had a chance to see the fabled British actress Vanessa Redgrave do her greatest as she wound down the months she played in Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” during a benefit for UNICEF (especially for the children of Gaza and southern Israel) on Monday.

I asked Vanessa if it is hard to go back and relearn a one-person role after having played it ad infinitum on the Broadway and London stages during 2007 and 2008. Vanessa said simply, “Well, it is a privilege, and this is probably the very last time I will ever do it.” (The tragic story of Ms. Didion’s true-life loss of husband and daughter in a short time period is the stuff of legend by now. The book was a bestseller and the play, directed by David Hare, was considered a rare one-person onstage masterpiece.)

I hadn’t really spoken to Miss Redgrave since I went backstage after her incredible performance in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” some seasons ago. We did not get a chance to talk after the loss of her beautiful daughter Natasha Richardson earlier this year, though we exchanged letters. I asked Vanessa last Friday how she was doing.

“Well, I am enjoying the last day of rehearsal for this performance Monday night. I love rehearsal halls, and we’ve been doing this for two weeks. I like being where you can always hear a piano in some other rehearsal hall two steps away. It’s reassuring.”

I told this very great lady my feelings about her loss of Natasha and what it had meant to everyone in America who loved her. Vanessa said, “Yes, well, thank you. I will never forget the Broadway theaters dimming their lights for her. It was so generous.”

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