It was the summer of 1982 in Geneva, and the negotiations on the INF (Intermediate-Flange Nuclear Forces) Treaty between the Soviet Union and the United States had come to a virtual standstill. Frustrated by the impasse in the talks, Paul Nitze, the chief American negotiator, made the unprecedented suggestion to his Russian counterpart, Yuli Kvitsinsky, that they conduct their own informal negotiations, away from the table and out of the scrutinizing eyes of both their own delegations and the media. The two men took a "walk in the woods”, and hammered out an agreement, only to have it rejected by their respective countries.
It was this obscure, but telling event in recent political history that caught the imagination of Lee Blessing, and became the inspiration for his award-winning play A Walk ln The Woods. Rather than simply documenting the event, however, Blessing’s comedy of ideas explores what might have happened during that fateful "walk."
Although A Walk In The Woods revolves around the negotiation of a treaty, it is not about arms control or the arms race. Ultimately about the friendship that develops between two men coming to terms with the futility of their situation, the play bristles with Blessing’s sparkling dialogue and original wit. Blessing’s diplomats are Andrey Botvinnik, a good-humored elder statesman, and John Honeyman, a formal, sincere and serious-minded young American, the latest in a long line of negotiators that Botvinnik has seen come and go on the other side of the negotiating table. When Andrey invites him for a private walk in the woods, John assumes it is to discuss some new, secret proposal, but Botvinnik only wants to relax, confuse the reporters and become friends with his new adversary. Honeyman, however, is interested in one thing and one thing only: negotiating a treaty.
The play follows these fascinating characters through four "walks" over the course of a year, with a deeper understanding and friendship developing between the two men, even as the stakes of their negotiations become higher.