A Walk in the Woods is the story of an impossible friendship, one that grows between an earnest young American arms negotiator and his more cynical Soviet counterpart during their private walks together over a period of many months. It is also the story of two nations attempting to avert a nuclear holocaust in spite of the political and economic forces that seem to be pushing them relentlessly toward it.
The conflict between these two contrasting elements of the play, the public and the private, the political and the personal, is established in the first of the play’s four scenes, during which the novice American negotiator, Honeyman, repeatedly refuses the more experienced Botvinnik’s offer of friendship.
His rebuff is not due to any personal hostility based on Cold War rivalry. On the contrary, he comes to the table full of enthusiasm and high hopes for a rapid and successful conclusion to the talks, replacing a more experienced negotiator named McIntyre, whose personal inflexibility was a source of irritation to Botvinnik. “We negotiated for two years, and he never changed his position,” complains Botvinnik. “The American position changed . . . ” objects Honeyman, to which the Russian responds: “No, no—his position. Sitting there, at the table. He always sat straight up. For two years he never relaxed.”
Honeyman appears in the opening scene to be cut from the same stiff cloth as McIntyre, and much of the play revolves around Botvinnik’s attempts to break through his bureaucratic exterior and find the man within, while Honeyman struggles to hammer out an agreement on arms reduction.
The second scene opens, two months later,...
(The entire section is 700 words.)