Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

West End Players Open Season with a Lee Blessing Drama

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

West End Players Open Season with a Lee Blessing Drama

Article excerpt

Lee Blessing wrote "A Walk in the Woods" in 1988 and set it around that time as well a time when the Soviet Union, still intact, and the United States were involved in arms negotiations.

If you remember that, you also may remember that the process, which did achieve some reductions, was extremely complex. Newspaper accounts came to seem practically interchangeable, from month to month and even from year to year. True policy wonks may recall it better than that; for others, it's sort of a blur.

The same is true, unfortunately, of Blessing's two-man drama, which has nothing to do with disarmament. Instead, he gives us a "relationship play" about two diplomats, canny veteran Andrey Bottvinnik (Tom Moore) representing for the Soviets and smart newcomer John Honeyman (Tim Naegelin) for the U.S. Slowly, they become something like friends.

Slowly, we in the audience become something like bored.

Renee Sevier-Monsey, who directs "A Walk in the Woods" to open the West End Players Guild 2017-2018 season, doesn't strike a false note. But the dull tune grows repetitive.

The production looks (and smells!) delicious, as designer Jacob Winslow turns the basement theater into a woodsy glen of fallen leaves, tree stumps and arching branches. In that lovely glade, Bottvinnik says charming things that seem to have no bearing on negotiations, while Honeyman wants to stick to the subject.

Bottvinnik doesn't see why. In fact, he has insisted on going for a walk in the Swiss woods with his American counterpart precisely to escape the pressures of the negotiating table. They take four such walks one per scene, two per act, spread across the seasons. It's kind of predictable.

These walks trouble Honeyman at first (and at middle). But by the end he and Bottvinnik are brothers in anything-but-arms.

And why not? As far as we know, neither has a personal life worth mentioning. …

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