Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Following its world premiere at the Yale Repertory Theatre, A Walk in the Woods had its West Coast premiere at La Jolla Playhouse in 1987, winning the American Theater Critics Association’s award for best play. It opened on Broadway on February 28, 1988, and received Tony Award nominations for best play and best actor (for Robert Prosky as Botvinnik).

In A Walk in the Woods Lee Blessing takes a well-known historical incident and reshapes it to reflect his own political observations and dramatic interests. During deadlocked arms reductions talks in Geneva in the summer of 1982, negotiators Yuli A. Kvitsinsky and Paul H. Nitze stepped away from the table and took a stroll in a nearby park, returning with an unprecedented new proposal, one which was ultimately rejected by the hardliners of both sides.

Throughout his career, Blessing has continued to draw upon historical characters and events for dramatic purposes, using the theater to reexamine social issues and public policy in more than one dozen different plays. Cobb (pr. 1989, pb. 1991) presents the life of legendary baseball player Ty Cobb in all its complexity, including the racism that relegated the “Black Cobb,” baseball player Oscar Charleston, to the Negro leagues. Patient A (pr., pb. 1993) examines the case of Kimberly Bergalis, the first known instance of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) transmission from a health care worker to a patient. Two Rooms (pr. 1988, pb. 1990) explores the various ways in which terrorism is exploited, by all sides, for political purposes. It was the success of A Walk in the Woods that set the stage for Blessing’s continued exploration of the intersection of politics and drama.