Reagan and Gorbachev go head to head at Goodman Theatre's 'Blind Date'

Reagan and Gorbachev go head to head at Goodman Theatre's 'Blind Date'
Rob Riley (Ronald Reagan) and William Dick (Mikhail Gorbachev) go head-to-head in Blind Date. Photo: Liz Lauren

History comes alive when US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the world’s two most powerful leaders in 1985, meet at the 1985 Geneva Summit in Rogelio Martinez’s Blind Date now playing at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre through February 25.

No one knows exactly what was said in those private moments between Gorbachev, Reagan and other prominent players at the Geneva Summit–only three of whom are now alive–but playwright Rogelio Martinez’s behind-the-scenes re-creation of that pivotal  moment in history may be close.

Martinez,  who grew up in Cuba not long after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, did extensive research before penning the play. He explains his fascination in the Cold War saying “My interest in the Cold War is, in some ways, my desire to understand who I was before arriving here, and who I became after. This is not speculative fiction, not a ‘what if’ story, the events in the play did occur, but maybe not exactly in the same way as they occur on stage. It’s my job to present a set of characters and let audiences arrive at a conclusion of their own. I hope audiences will leave the theater with some hope and not just hope but agency—they as individuals can do something about today’s problems.” 

The script adds a humorous and human spin to moments that had to be filled with doubt and tension as the fate of the world was in the hands of these leaders.

The private moments between Reagan (played close to the chest by Rob Riley) and Mikhail Gorbachev (masterfully captured by William Dick), were peppered with humor as discussion included pop culture and old movies (a favorite, no surprise, of former actor Reagan). While the private moments between Nancy Reagan, (an amazing performance by Deanna Dunagan who captured the persona of the First Lady both physically and verbally) and Mary Beth Fisher well cast as Raisa Gorbachev provided some of the most hilarious moments of the evening as they debated the merits of loose tea vs. tea bags and other equally trivial topics. 

Mary Beth Fisher (Raisa Gorbachev) and Deanna Dunagan (Nancy Reagan) in Blind Date

Mary Beth Fisher (Raisa Gorbachev) and Deanna Dunagan (Nancy Reagan) in Blind Date

Other important players at the summit included: U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz (in a spot-on performance by Jim Ortlieb), Steve Pickering in top form as Eduard Shevardnadze, Gorbachev’s foreign minister and former First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party and Edmund Morris (a delightful performance by Thomas J. Cox), the British-American historian working on a biography of Reagan (under the protective and watchful eye of the First Lady).

Aptly directed by Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls with an innovative revolving set by Riccardo Hernandez, the two-hour-and-twenty-minute production moved along seamlessly.

 Deanna Dunagan (Nancy Reagan), Jim Ortlieb (George Shultz), and Rob Riley (Ronald Reagan) in Blind Date. Photo: Liz Lauren


Deanna Dunagan (Nancy Reagan), Jim Ortlieb (George Shultz), and Rob Riley (Ronald Reagan) in Blind Date. Photo: Liz Lauren

Known as the Great Communicator, with a legendary sense of humor, Martinez’s Reagan came off as bit of a twit instead of a great communicator. This might have been due, in part, to early signs of Alzheimer disease–officially diagnosed nine years later–but evident to many close to him at the time including son Ron Reagan Jr., who was quoted in 1984 saying, “My father . . . floundered his way through his responses, fumbling with notes, uncharacteristically lost for words in a 1984 debate with Walter Mondale looking tired and bewildered.”

What: ‘BLIND DATE’
Rating: 3 stars
When: now through February 25, 2018
Where: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
Tickets: $20 – $75, online
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission

Subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email

If you would like to keep in touch with what’s happening in Chicago, like us on Facebook or subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email. To subscribe, type your email address in the box below and click the “create subscription” button. Our list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Filed under: Theater in Chicago

Leave a comment

  • Advertisement:
  • Advertisement:
  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Meet The Blogger

    Carole Kuhrt Brewer

    Arts, entertainment and dining journalist..

  • Follow me on Twitter.

  • Recent posts

  • Categories

  • Advertisement: