A Walk in the Woods | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A Walk in the Woods

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A Walk in the Woods, Grounded Theatre, at the Chopin Theatre. Fourteen years after its Broadway run, Lee Blessing's play about two arms negotiators during the cold war seems almost quaint, a relic of a simpler time when America danced a delicate pas de deux with the Soviet Union around nuclear arms instead of worrying whether raw materials for those weapons were falling into the hands of suicidal zealots bent on destroying Western culture. So this Grounded Theatre revival seems a tad creaky.

Fortunately director David Lightner subtly orchestrates the exchanges between wily Soviet Andrey (Mike Rogalski) and straight-arrow American policy wonk John (Thad Anzur). A few lines, such as Andrey's observation that "once we only had to be rational in English and Russian--now we have to be rational in Hebrew and Hindi," have a chilling resonance. Through four scenes, each corresponding to a change in season, Rogalski and Anzur ably portray their characters' growing despair, cynicism, and resignation even as increased understanding and respect deepens their personal relationship.

The production's clumsiest aspects are overlong scene changes (a stagehand sprinkles a few leaves over the simple park setting) and uncertain light cues. Both mar the piece's tempo. But Lightner and his cast deserve credit for their intelligent, subdued approach to a script that could easily have produced preening self-consciousness and self-congratulation.

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