A Walk in the Woods
by Lee Blessing
Yesterday I attended another smashing production by TimeLine Theatre Company. Directed by Nick Bowling and featuring TimeLine Company members Janet Ulrich Brooks and David Parkes. This was a tale of two arms negotiators who literally went for "a walk in the woods".
The events of the play were inspired by the real-life talks between Paul Nitze and Yuli A. Kvitsinsky, who were involved in talks to limit intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces between 1981 and 1984. Lee Blessing wrote the play which was first produced during the 1986 National Playwrights Conference and subsequently produced on Broadway in 1988 and was nominated for both a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award. The TimeLine production is unique in the casting, for the first time, of a woman in the role of the Russian negotiator. Janet Ulrich Brooks was very convincing with her estimable Russian accent in this demanding role. No less demanding is the role of the American negotiator and David Parkes (who I admired in his roles as Thomas More and Martin Heidegger previously with TimeLine) was also up to the challenge. There were moments of both great humor and seriousness in the play and it was not until the final minutes that I felt a release from the tension that had built on stage. The staging with beautiful transitions of the seasons between the scenes and the perfect lighting were also outstanding aspects of this production . But the original music by Andrew Hansen must be singled out as it was exceptional.
Within the space of two hours on a stage in Chicago I and the rest of the audience were transported to the Cold War era and the mountains of Switzerland. It was history theater at its best.