The success of a theatrical two-man political debate is evident by the long running, Tony winning Frost/Nixon. In the same mold, playwright Lee Blessing’s highly acclaimed, timely dramedy A Walk in the Woods brings two talking heads together for two hours of political and trivial banter and the result is something close to perfection. The lead characters, Larry Eisenberg as Andrey Botvinnik, a career Soviet diplomat, and Fox Carney, as John Honeyman, an American negotiator, are so contrapuntal, that the audience is instantly enthralled.
They play off each other as straight man and comic sophisticate. The Russian Andrey (Eisenberg) is a sort of jester — he says seemingly foolish things that upon closer listen reveal themselves to be musing of a sage.
Carney convincingly portrays the American as a stolid, conservative, straight-laced, no-nonsense character. Together they play a game of cat and mouse, but underneath it all, they are merely puppets on a string, dangled by the two superpowers. They seem to have a simple mission – peace negotiations – yet the two are so fraught with frustration, we soon realize the mission is one of pure vanity.
The scenario of a peaceful, quiet park has been used before (Zoo Story, Barefoot in the Park) and proves to be quite effective.
Though amidst the peaceful serenity of trees and nature lies the imploding reality: a crescendo of bombs, missiles, and warheads.
“A Walk in the Woods” runs through September 4th, on Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 4 p.m. at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, located at 10900 Burbank Blvd. They can be reached at (818) 700-4878.