Review: Smart, Funny PlayMakers' Premiere of 'Bewilderness' is a Mind Trip into the Psyche of Henry David Thoreau (and Zack Fine)

By: Jan. 11, 2019
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Review: Smart, Funny PlayMakers' Premiere of 'Bewilderness' is a Mind Trip into the Psyche of Henry David Thoreau (and Zack Fine)

When Zack Fine's play BEWILDERNESS begins, it feels like a time machine has landed at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill and philosopher and writer Henry David Thoreau has emerged. Fine, playing himself, directly addresses the audience while Thoreau, eagerly played by company member Geoffrey Culbertson, wanders aimlessly about the stage pondering the question: Is the afterlife a regional theater in North Carolina?

The curtain opens and the time travelers find themselves at Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond, roughly built to scale on the Kenan stage. What happens next borders on the ridiculous, absurd, and downright funny.

A strong cast of company members including David Adamson as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jeffrey Blair Cornell as a wisecracking woodchuck named Darren, and Ray Dooley as Paracelsus, duly populate Fine's imagined state of madness and enlightenment. But the standout in this production is Julia Gibson who plays Cynthia Thoreau, Henry's mother. Gibson intuitively plays to both the comedy of the piece and the conviction of this outspoken woman seemingly ahead of her time to perfection.

Fine's attention to detail as writer and director and exploration of grief, failure, joy, and life through the lens of Thoreau, makes for a smart yet surprisingly deep comedy. Notably, this is Fine's first play. And although the play itself is eulogized by Ralph Waldo Emerson at the end of the show, this premiere hopefully marks the beginning of BEWILDERNESS' journey and the birth of Fine's promising playwrighting career.

BEWILDERNESS runs through Sunday, January 13th as part of the Kenan Stage series at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill. For more information visit: http://playmakersrep.org/.


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