Tucked away in the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, there is a black box painted white. Transformed into an abstract forest of slender trees fashioned from knotted white tulle, this black box theatre is home to the Actors Co-op theatre company. Their latest production, Lee Blessing's "A Walk in the Woods," was directed by Ken Sawyer, who, just last semester, directed the USC School of Dramatic Arts' production of "Trojan Barbie."
"A Walk in the Woods" wonderfully explores Russian and American relations during the Cold War. Two arms negotiators, Andrey Botvinnik (Phil Crowley) and Joan Honeyman (Nan McNamara) meet in the woods of Geneva, away from the prying eyes of the media. There alone, they have the freedom to discuss peace, friendship, and whether or not America and Russia will ever sign a treaty together.
Crowley and McNamara are superb. A seasoned voiceover actor, Crowley nails a Russian accent, lending a great believability to his character. Beyond that, he is warm and funny, and completely thwarts the preconception many of us subconsciously have about Russians as being stoic or grim. His liveliness and sincerity had me laughing much more that I thought I would be—an unexpected, and greatly appreciated, surprise. McNamara brings a wonderful sense of control to her acting, with movements that are specific and intentional. Your heart breaks for her naivety and sincere yearning to make a difference.
In this production, the lighting is particularly stunning. Nicholas Acciani and Matt Ritcher's warm lighting—which changes colors to convey a change in season—beautifully paints Ellen Lenbergs' white canvas of a set. The combination of the two makes it feel like one is watching a watercolor painting come to life.
Written in 1988, Blessing's play is still incredibly relevant today as the world continues to hold its breath while two world superpowers pull one power play after another. However, this play serves as a wonderful reminder that there are always people, on both sides, fighting for peace.
Stroll on over to the Actors Co-op to catch "A Walk in the Woods," for a refresher on the importance of friendship, especially in unlikely situations.
"A Walk in the Woods" runs February 9 – March 18. To buy tickets, or make reservations, please visit www.ActorsCo-op.org or call (323) 462-8460. Actors Co-op Crossley Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., 90028 (on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood) in Hollywood.
Correction: The story was updated to clarify that Ken Sawyer has previously directed one show for the USC School of Dramatic Arts.