Since Lee Blessing’s 1987 Pulitzer- and Tony- nominated drama first dazzled Broadway audiences, many changes have occurred in the political arena. The Berlin Wall has tumbled and the Iron Curtain has been lifted. The new Russian Federation grew out of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and relationships between the two countries have become friendlier in many ways. But back in 1981, when the first Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Talks began between the two Super Powers, the world held its breath. This play imagines what might have taken place in a forest outside Geneva as the American and Russian negotiators began to draft their own plan for arms reduction.
What may sound like dry, uninspiring theatre couldn’t be more exciting. Not only is Blessing’s play extremely well-written, but Nick Bowling has directed his production like a taut international chess match. His unaffected, purposeful staging allows the two actors to breathe life into their characters and continually grow and change with the seasons. The production is gorgeously enhanced by Brian Sidney Bembridge’s symbolic forest setting and atmospheric lighting, coupled with Andrew Hansen’s realistic sound design and Mike Tutaj’s stunning, moving projections that take us through the year. The result is a total woodland sensory experience, complete with gently blowing breezes.
Bowling has also boldly cast an actress in one of the two male roles, adding to this play a new dimension of sexual politics. David Parkes plays the gentle, even-tempered but ultimately frustrated American negotiator, John Honeyman. Controlled and businesslike, he makes the perfect foil for the talented Janet Ulrich Brooks’ spectacularly quirky, brilliantly nuanced Anya Botvinnik. Both talented actors equally hold the audience in the palm of their hands leading us on a tensely political, yet very human walk through the woods.