It can be argued that the truest test of a performer’s capabilities is to put them on stage, alone, for a significant length of time.

Without other performers to play against, with minimal props, can she command the attention of an audience for more than a few minutes?

When The Year of Magical Thinking debuted at the start of PURE Theatre’s seventh season, Lucille Arrington Keller was put to this test. Not only did she succeed, she excelled.

The strength of the story — Joan Didion’s autobiographical tale of the year in which she both unexpectedly lost her husband and watched her daughter die as well — accounts for part of that excellence. But give Keller her due; it takes formidable stage presence to keep such a story moving forward in a compelling manner.

Those who love the art of theater could learn a lot from the subtle inflections in Keller’s calm, controlled mannerisms and speech.

“There’s a richness to Lucille’s relationship to the character, and the character’s journey, that comes from spending a year living with the mind of Joan Didion and her amazing story,” notes director Sharon Graci. “As theater artists, our subconscious mind continues to create pictures and images that fill the life of the character on stage. So just imagine what happens when your subconscious mind has been working on a character for an entire year.”

In other words, those who have not seen the show before are in for a treat.

“The work can’t help but go deeper if the actor is good at his or her job, and, I don’t mind saying, Lucille Keller is very good at what she does,” Graci says. “For the actor, it’s really an amazing journey, and for the audience, it can be a breathtaking, life-affirming experience.”