Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Bon Iver Fights a Bear
maura ampersand doug / 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule (updated)

Also see Rebecca's review of Hapgood

Emily Schuman and Doug Greene
Photo by Cass Meehan
Charming, unexpected, a little bit weird, and very funny, Bon Iver Fights a Bear was one of the 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival's hidden gems. For this production, which just completed its run, Emily Schuman and Doug Green transformed the small basement of the Art Church of West Philadelphia (don't look for a church building, this is just a regular house from the outside) into a rustic cabin in the woods. The intimate space was a perfect setting for playwright Douglas Williams' modern musical parable.

The story surrounds real life indie folk music troubadour Justin Vernon and his (at least initially) one man band Bon Iver. The majority of Bon Iver's first album "For Emma, Forever Ago" was recorded over three months that Justin spent in an isolated Wisconsin cabin getting over breakups with his band and his girlfriend, and a rough bout of mono. Williams started with this kernel of truth and built a fantastical creation myth for the artist and his debut album.

Emily Schuman pulled off annoyingly self-centered hipster kid Justin with aplomb. Her performance was loads of fun to watch, but the real star of the show was the foul mouthed, self-deprecating, science-loving bear starving just outside the cabin. Whether waxing poetic about starvation or chasing down an enchanted pine cone, Doug Greene (who played both the bear and Justin's father) was amazing. Together, Schuman and Greene brought a lively chemistry to this millennial fairy tale.

Though Bon Iver Fights a Bear has finished its run at the Fringe Festival, I hope it is not the last we see of this work. Learn more at For more on the 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, visit

Bon Iver: Emily Schuman
Bear: Doug Greene

Director: Maura Krause
Playwright: Douglas Williams
Sound Design: Cat Ramirez
Stage Manager: Eleanor Safer
Scenic Design: Emily and Doug G
Lighting Design: Maura and Doug W
Graphic Design: Lily Meier

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