Chicago's TimeLine Theatre Stages a Revival of Lee Blessing's A Walk in the Woods With a Twist.

Chicago's TimeLine Theatre Stages a Revival of Lee Blessing's A Walk in the Woods With a Twist.
American negotiator John Honeyman (David Parkes) and his Russian counterpart Anya Botvinnik (Janet Ulrich Brooks) debate nuclear policy and much more when they take a break from the negotiating table for a walk in the woods in TimeLine Theatre’s production of A WALK IN THE WOODS. Photo by Lara Goetsch.

Traditionally, A Walk in the Woods, the Lee Blessing play loosely based on the 1982 summit in Geneva, Switzerland where Paul H. Nitze and Yuli A. Kvitsinsky left the negotiating table for an unofficial ”walk in the woods’, is played by two men.  This time around, TimeLine Theatre director Nick Bowling has taken the liberty, with Lee’s blessing, of pitting a female Russian negotiator (Janet Ulrich Brooks) against an American male negotiator (David Parkes).  By way of explanation, Bowling points out that although this scenario would have been unlikely in the early 80’s, he is trying to reflect current times where one could see a Hillary Clinton in negotiations with a male counterpart.  Bowling has dressed up Blessing’s 1984 production for the new century with this obvious change along with other subtly added updates.

For the most part the switch works well, especially with the talented Brooks nailing the role of the charismatic Anya Botvinnik (formerly Andry) with her on-spot portrayal of the Soviet negotiator tossing the political football back and forth with Parkes who characteristically underplays the role of John Honeyman, the American negotiator.  The pair does its best to avoid any sexual innuendos that would have taken away from the intent of the story.

Building trust is the central theme of the Blessing play.  This is done through a cat and mouse game between the actors who finally come to a degree of trust and create a mutually satisfactory proposal after year-long negotiations–only to have it crushed by their respective countries. The underlying theme is that generally people are good, when they are given to interact, one to one.

Although our great fear of the nuclear arms race of the ’80’s has been supplanted, to some degree, by today’s tensions over terrorism and economic anxieties, the story is still relevant as it digs into the human psyche of relationships between individuals and countries.  The smart, funny, provocative dialogue and non-verbal communication keep the story moving along at a pace that seems faster than the nearly two hour long running time of the two-act play

The design team has created an effective. yet simple, set that reflects the passing of time through a  series of cardboard cutout trees and a bench that set the scene.  Videos project each season on the trees from the bright days of summer, to the colorful fall leaves, followed by the bare trees of winter back to the new birth of spring.  The beautifully staged A Walk in the Woods is a journey worth taking, now through November 20, 2011.

Please note: This TimeLine production is being staged at an alternate location. (see below).


Tickets for A Walk in the Woods at Theater Wit are $34, regular tickets (Wednesday – Friday) and $44, regular ticket (Saturday & Sunday), student and military discounts available.  Tickets can be purchased by phone at (773) 975-8150 or online.

Tickets are general admission, so if you want your choice of seats, plan on arriving a little early–although there are no bad seats in the small capacity space.  Theater Wit is located near the corner of Belmont and Racine at 1229 W. Belmont (immediately west of Stage 773) in Chicago’s Lakeview East neighborhood.


Valet parking is available for $10 and there is also limited free and metered street parking nearby.

Public Transportation.

The theater is accessible via the CTA El stop at Belmont (Red/Brown/Purple lines). CTA bus #77-Belmont stops at Racine and Belmont.


Various casual dining establishments are located within walking distance to Thearte Wit.

Coopers at 1232 W. Belmont is directly across the street from the theatre and offers free parking in the lot behind the restaurant to diners who have their pre-theater meal there.

Schubas Harmony Grill is two blocks west of the theater at 3159 N. Southport, just south of Belmont. Call ahead for a reservation and get their famous mini mac ‘n cheese free with any dinner entree. On Sundays, before the 2p.m. matinee, head to Schubas  for a free “Acoustic Brunch” featuring a great line-up of entertainment starting at noon.

For a light meal, stop by Bittersweet at 1114 W. Belmont.   The bakery has a cafe area offering soups, salads, quiche, pastries and sandwiches.

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