When Ed Giron and William Waxman walk onstage at Carpinteria’s Plaza Playhouse Theater this weekend, they will be portraying two men wrapped up in a conflict that is perhaps more alive now than it was when A Walk in the Woods was written in the late 1980s. Lee Blessing’s drama tells the story of two diplomats, one an experienced Russian arms treaty negotiator played by Giron, and the other an idealistic younger American played by Waxman. Based on a real incident that took place in the woods outside of Geneva, Switzerland, in 1982, it portrays how these two men exited the formal proceedings of a nuclear arms nonproliferation meeting between the superpowers to take the title’s “walk in the woods” and get to know each other as people. In the process, they develop a new strategy for de-escalating the mutual buildup of weapons of mass destruction.
Needless to say, the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union as a Communist state has not rendered the Russian nuclear arsenal less of a threat. If anything, the current uncertainty about U.S.-Russian relations is more confused and unstable than it was during the Cold War. Speaking with Giron last week about the experience of rehearsing this play in February 2017, he cited a particular night on which the actors and director Jerry Oshinsky all happened to hear about potential Russian interference in the recent presidential election at the same time. “As we began running our lines, many of which deal with the irrationality of using potential nuclear destruction as a political bargaining chip, the rehearsal suddenly got emotional,” he said, adding that “everyone realized that the high stakes of this game are real, and that it’s happening right now.” Fans of the DIJO team’s previous historical dramas such as the Indy Award–winning Frost/Nixon won’t want to miss this latest addition to their distinguished repertoire.
411 A Walk in the Woods is at the Plaza Playhouse Theater (4916 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria) February 23-March 5, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. There will be an invited preview on February 23, with regular shows beginning February 24. Call (805) 684-6380 or visit plazatheatercarpinteria.com.