Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires


Regional Reviews by Zander Opper

A Walk in the Woods
Square One Theatre Company

Also see Zander's review of The World Goes 'Round: The Songs of Kander & Ebb and Fred's review of Wicked


Pat Leo and Damian Long
Lee Blessing's 1988 Broadway play A Walk in the Woods is currently enjoying an excellent revival by Square One Theatre Company in Stratford, Connecticut. Detailing a year in the lives of two arms limitation negotiators in 1982 Geneva, the play is essentially four short scenes in which these men, one Russian and one American, try to come to an agreement about a treaty that will satisfy the leaders of both the United States and Russia. Though the politics of the play may seem remote in our current political landscape, the tensions between these two men feel as timely as ever.

A Walk in the Woods is a play about words and their limitations, and it is quite intriguing to see how Pat Leo as Andrey, the Russian, and Damian Long as John, the American, grudgingly form a relationship, almost against their will. Featuring strong performances by both actors and fine direction by Tom Holehan, A Walk in the Woods proves to be consistently fascinating, as the audience wonders how these two opposing men can ever reach any sort of agreement.

The title refers to the setting of the show: as the program describes it, "a pleasant woods on the outskirts of Geneva, Switzerland." Yet, as designed by Greg Fairbend and Robert Mastroni, the idyllic nature is almost the antithesis of the power play that unfolds between the two men. And, though I found some limitations at times in the form and content of Blessing's dramaturgy, the acting by Pat Leo and Damian Long is always terrific and perfectly modulated.

Pat Leo is quite wonderful as Andrey, with an air of frivolity and nonchalance that can sometimes hide an insidious nature. Indeed, one is never quite sure what is behind some of Andrey's motives. Conversely, John, as played by the fine Damian Long, is a real straight arrow from the start, always keeping a clear eye on his goal. Yet, Long also reveals unseen layers that can sometimes throw into question exactly how forthright and upfront John truly is. As it is stated in the play, these two men have been chosen by their respective countries because they are good "negotiators" with the ability to "say no" consistently in order to get what they want. At times, it feels like a chess match, with each move being of significant importance, and both Pat Leo and Damian Long are masters at keeping the tension between the characters alive, even as their outward appearances suggest a possible "friendship."

Director Tom Holehan makes the play consistently involving and has elicited skillful performances from his actors. The play, frequently performed in regional theatre and a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award nominee, might be in danger of sagging without the kind of sharp direction, design, and acting that this production provides.

Ultimately, A Walk in the Woods is about words and their ability to both bridge gaps between people and hinder an alliance, and the playwright proves to be skillful in demonstrating the power of language or lack thereof. Without revealing too much, Pat Leo and Damian Long's characters use words that can both help and hurt; a large part of the pleasure of watching A Walk in the Woods at the Square One Theatre Company is in seeing these two masterful actors attempt a negotiation.

A Walk in the Woods continues performances at the Square One Theatre Company in Stratford, Connecticut, through November 22nd, 2014. For tickets, please visit www.squareonetheatre.com or call (203) 375-8778.


Photo: Richard Pheneger

- Zander Opper


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