Square One Theatre Invites You to Take "A Walk in the Woods"


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Striving for agreement is a delicate balancing act that includes a statement of facts, at least two sides of opinion, a give and take of ideas and, possibly, compromise. If the stakes are high, if there is a lot at issue, both sides may be unwilling to give an inch in the negotiations. Imagine, if you will, it is the Cold War and a Russian diplomat is facing his American counterpart. Instead of a round table for discussion, the pair are meeting in the woods.

Playwright Lee Blessing has set his play "A Walk in the Woods" in Switzerland. Square One Theatre Company is opening delicate and deliberate discussions weekends until Saturday, November 22 in celebration of its 25th anniversary. "A Walk in the Woods" was the first play that this Stratford based theater company produced in 1990. At that time, Pat Leo played the eager young and slightly naive American diplomat with William Barry as the quick on his feet Russian statesman.

Now a quarter of a century later, Pat Leo has changed sides. He is now Andrey Botvinnik, a man skilled in prevarication and postponement, one who is treating the talks as a grand game, with moves and manipulations that almost guarantee a lack of progress, a stalemate, a tie score with no winner in evidence. He prefers to talk in trivialities and discuss frivolous topics, rather than deal with the realities at hand. He has been entertaining ideas for treaties for decades and acknowledges the ultimate futility of the  mission.

Andrey now has a new opponent, competitor, playmate in the high stakes contest: the American John Honeyman, brought to ambitious life by Damian Long. As the newcomer to the proceedings, John is hopeful that he can make inroads and progress, and succeed in reaching a proposal that will work for both sides. As the two sit on a bench in the woods, surrounded by pines and birch, they question the basic concept of trust. They are looking for peace, but purposely never finding it. Is either side willing to reduce its warheads and cruise missiles, to slow down the development of newer and more deadly weapons?

Director Tom Holehan handles the issue of bargaining chips and checks and balances in such a way that one feels a deep identity with these two men who potentially hold the fate of the world in their hands. Both actors do a superb job of creating the tension surrounding the creation of a real reduction in weapons treaty.

For tickets ($20, seniors $19, subscriptions for the season $50), call Square One Theatre Company, 2422 Main Street, Stratford at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. with a twilight matinee at 4 p.m. the last weekend.

Mark your calendars for December 15-21 when Square One Theatre Company will offer a special look at Stratford's 375 years, in an original play by Stratford playwright Steven Otfinoski.  Performances will be Monday - Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Pause in the woods of Geneva in 1982 and investigate the reasons, resistance and realities that are capable of changing the fate of nations, if not of the world.

 

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