RR LogoA Walk In The Woods headline

By Ethan Silver

A Walk In The Woods Photo 1

A Walk In The Woods focuses on two negotiators; one being a Russian and the other, an American, as they meet outside the bargaining room in an effort to come to a weapons disarmament agreement between the two nations…or so it would seem. 

The play, written by Lee Blessing, had a successful history on Broadway in 1988 and was nominated for a Tony as well as a Pulitzer Prize, so there is no doubt as to the quality of the writing, which is indeed superb and easily followed, even for one who is not especially politically minded.  The challenge in a two character piece such as this is two-fold;  to find actors who can handle the tremendous amount of dialogue, while at the same time embodying the spirit of the character and maintaining the integrity of the story.  Director, Richard Alan Woody does an incredible job accomplishing this feat, by casting actors Larry Eisenberg (Andrey Botvinnik) and Fox Carney (John Honeyman).  

Eisenberg portrays Andrey Botvinnik, the frivolity-prone Russian negotiator whose mind appears to be everywhere, but on the important task at hand, specifically being the preservation of life all over the world through the disarmament of nuclear weapons.  From the start, Eisenberg infuses his character with color, emotion, and reality in such a natural and enjoyable way that brings the audience into the world of the story, and makes helps us to forget that we are watching actors on a stage.   

Fox’s portrayal of John Honeyman is also effective as he plays the straight-laced, stereotypical stiff and self-assured American diplomat.  This character serves as the perfect foil to his counterpart, which is made all the more enjoyable by Fox’s commitment and attention to detail, down to the last facial expression.  Fox does a great job of making his character, within the context of the story, entertainingly “boring.”  The hilarity of the contrasts in the two characters is just delightful, as evidenced on the faces of and in the laughter of the audience.

Although the opening into the first act is quite amusing, it serves as a segue allowing the gravity of the story to unfold. The story proposes that the true nature of government is not as it seems, while at the same time humanizing both sides of the war and offering the audience a glimpse into a completely different reality where the two opposing superpowers are similar in many ways.  The audience is treated to a beautiful give and take which is innately woven into the script, but brought to life by two gifted actors, culminating in a harsh reality, which brings about a change in the lives of both characters.

Both the scenic design (Chris Winfield) and lighting plan (Rachel Jaime Miller) allows the focus to be on the actors and story, while effectively establishing place and time/season.  The set itself suggests a woodsy setting with a few scattered leaves on the ground and abstract trees scattered throughout. 

A Walk In The Woods is presented by The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood, CA.  Showtimes are Fridays at 8:00pm and Saturdays at 4:00pm through September 4th.  Bring a jacket as it may be chilly in the theatre.  This production comes highly recommended from this reviewer regardless of political prowess or affiliation.

* The Lonny Chapman Theatre is a great and welcoming location for theatre goers and boasts a decent sized house and a beautiful stage.  The Group Rep at the theatre has a 37-year history  with over 200 productions and 80 current company members. 

Photo: Fox Carney and Larry Eisenberg