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Review – “A Walk in the Woods” at Pegasus Theater in Guerneville – by Harry Duke


Review – “A Walk in the Woods” at Pegasus Theater in Guerneville – by Harry Duke

Two actors and a bench - that’s pretty much all you need to stage a production of Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods, a tale of two Reagan-era diplomats hammering out an arms agreement. That’s a good thing for the now-nomadic Pegasus Theater Company as they spend their season traipsing throughout Sonoma County presenting their brand of theatre to the community in whatever spaces they can find.

For this production, director Darlene Kersnar has set that bench down in the middle of a tiny Guerneville art gallery, set up about 30 chairs, and invited interested parties into the woods of Switzerland where American John Honeyman (Tim Earls) and his Russian counterpart Andrey Botvinnik (Vincent Black) stroll after leaving the confines of a negotiating room.  The no-nonsense Honeyman wants to continue the talks, but the wily and weary Botvinnik wants to talk about anything but the issue that brought them together. 

As the seasons pass (represented by musical interludes by Mary Livingston), many things are discussed. Topics vary from Mickey Mouse and Babe Ruth to the never-ending development of new and more efficient weapon systems, with Honeyman’s idealism often clashing with Botvannik’s realism. In the end, nothing is really settled. Perhaps that is Blessing’s point.

With the debate over a proposed Middle East treaty in the news today, Blessing’s points about the reality of negotiations and the politics of “peace” are rather timely.  These are well delivered by Earls and Black, who do good work in meeting the challenge of delivering an action-less 90 minutes of conversational dialogue and holding an audience’s attention.  While Jackson has the bigger challenge in delivering his dialogue with a Russian accent, he greatly benefits in that Botvinnik is the better-written role of the two. Jackson presents a fully formed characterization with a wider range of elements (particularly humor) but again, that’s because Blessing wrote a more fully-formed character. Earls is limited by the almost one-note tone of his character as written, but he does manage to work a little growth into Honeyman.

The intimacy of the space presented its own challenges. With the characters conversations being set in the vast expense of a Swiss forest being limited by the somewhat claustrophobic confines of the venue, blocking and vocal volume occasionally seemed at odds with what was going on in the scene. I don’t think it would be a stretch to assume that the proximity of the audience to the “stage” also presented challenges to the actors, whether they be sightline issues or an audience member’s feet.  Like Blessing’s negotiators, Kersnar’s actors soldiered on, meeting the challenges and moving forward.

Pegasus Theater is presenting a well-written and well-performed bit of political theatre that is funny, frustrating, and thought-provoking on several different levels – pragmatism versus idealism, the role of governments, the value of individual thought, and ultimately, the survival of the planet – and all in 90 minutes. Credit is due the folks at Blue Door Gallery and the nearby Chef Patrick's for literally opening their doors and helping Pegasus continue to bring interesting theatre to their community.

Consider taking a trip to downtown Guerneville to take A Walk in the Woods.

A Walk in the Woods
Presented by Pegasus Theater Company

through April 19

Fri/Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 6pm 

Blue Door Gallery
16359 Main Street
Guerneville, CA 95446

Photo by Harvey Mendelson

Theater Reviews by Harry Duke