"Walden" review: getting away from it all

This is how I saw it. And if it hurt to watch such an environmentally conscious drama from a laptop, on my couch, with a quietly whirrin...


This is how I saw it. And if it hurt to watch such an environmentally conscious drama from a laptop, on my couch, with a quietly whirring window unit in the background, tensions like this interest Berryman. She doesn’t situate herself as smarter than her characters and evenly divides her sympathies between them. Nonetheless, go to Connecticut if you can, especially if you can get there by emission-friendly means. Because this meadow is magnificent. And the birdsong and the twilight rays are best experienced in person. Again, there are no mosquitoes in the digital theater. The filming is quite skillful, and the performances – layered, inconspicuous – even land through the screen.

“Walden” borrows its name from “Walden; or, Life in the Woods ”, a memoir, a harangue, a self-help manual and a self-fiction work brought together in one volume bound in fabric. “Walden”, which advocates loneliness and autonomy, was a favorite text of the father of Cassie and Stella, also an astronaut. And Walden is Stella’s name for the habitat she designed for Mars. “I think it reads like a whiny 19whatever hipster’s blog,” Cassie says contemptuously of the book. She is not entirely wrong.

Thoreau went into the woods, he writes, “because I wanted to live life deliberately, to expose only the essentials of life, and to see if I could not learn what she had to teach, and no, when. I came to die, to find out that I had not lived. As Berryman loads his piece with vivid detail and plenty of plot mechanics, it’s Thoreau’s question of how to live and what constitutes a good life that animates him. Should we live for ourselves or for others? Committed to the present or looking to the future? What must we sacrifice to live in community and what must we lose if we live without it?

It’s probably this latter question, which has become much less rhetorical during the pandemic, that gives the play its poignant character. The humans of “Walden”, gathered for this visit, react to various disasters – natural, unnatural, interpersonal – and do their best to treat themselves decently.

The play never completely resolves its philosophical dilemmas, except to suggest that no one philosophy will suit everyone. Even Thoreau, who preached self-reliance while bringing his laundry home to his mother, could have agreed. “The sky,” he wrote, “is under our feet as well as over our heads. So why not have both?

Walden
Through August 29 at 100 Meadow Road, Windsor, Connecticut and online; twhartford.org/events/walden. Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes.

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