Home > "Thoreau, or Return to Walden" (review) - thru 7/11
"Thoreau, or Return to Walden" (review) - thru 7/11

Short Description of "Thoreau, or Return to Walden" (review) - thru 7/11

Thoreau, or Return to Walden (thru July 11)

Unicorn Theatre

Stockbridge, MA



I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”


--Henry David Thoreau


I stated long ago, when first writing the review of “Red”, the play about abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, that certain people, either through thought or some other door to the universe, are able to see something we mortals cannot, parts unknown, another dimension, and then they use their art and words to try and teach us mere mortals what's on the other side, wherever that other side may be. I equate this with looking behind that old curtain and saying, “Hey, look what I found.”


What you found, of course—or, rather, what the masters are trying to teach us—is a different way of thinking: How to be a better person, a better soul; How can we improve our social consciousness and improve our society? Perhaps the message, as in the case of expressionist art, really is chaotic, undecipherable, like a code we just aren't meant to understand yet.


In order to appreciate “Thoreau, or Return to Walden” playing at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge thru July 11th, I would probably bury my head somewhere in the feet of works Thoreau penned and scripted. Thoreau was one of the greatest thinkers of the 19th Century, and a dear friend of one of the other greatest thinkers of the 19th century, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson, who was the leader of the Transcendentalist movement, met Thoreau at a lecture at Harvard, and the two became lifelong friends. Transcendentalism was the protest against the state of existing intellectualism. As Thoreau's thinking and writing expanded, he decided to immerse himself in solitude by building a small cabin in the woods on land owned by Emerson. He stayed there as a naturalist for two years and two months, lamenting the Republic, slavery, John Brown, and attempting to perfect his role in perfecting humanity.


That is the history lesson, that is the play.


Adkins penned “Thoreau, or Return to Walden” as a succession of pieces to try and shed light on the masters. A problem, if we call it that, is that “Poe”, the work done last season by Adkins, was utterly brilliant, and Adkins now has big shoes to fill. To be sure, Adkins is a brilliant actor and shines mightily, but he runs the risk of becoming a character actor. His performance was exceedingly familiar to Poe—but when Poe was one of the best plays you ever saw, how bad of a thing is 'same-ole, same ole'?


After a brief interlude of non-frontal nudity, we find Thoreau in his cabin, in the woods, overlooking the pond, mimicking the cock-a-doodle-doo of a nearby rooster. The nudity was symbolic of the naturalism, and Thoreau liked to express himself through crowing as announcing to the world he was free and living the life he wanted to. The first 15-20 minutes or so made me lose my attention with details like this, only because I was not familiar enough with Thoreau's nuances to 'get it'. I had to keep reminding myself to listen to every line. Eventually, it does come together, but make sure you stay tuned in the mean time. Conceptually, this was brilliant, alternating between character and thought, but blink, and you can miss it.


The remainder of the play is a soliloquy of all that was on Thoreau's mind. It is volumes about the man, wrapped up into an hour and fifteen minutes. The special effects with lighting and sound were awesome.


As Adkins would later say, “This is a history lesson, without being a history lesson.”


--Richard DiMaggio, didyouweekend.com





by David Adkins

starring David Adkins

directed by Eric Hill

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Address: Stockbridge, MA, USA

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