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Detente In New Haven

March 07, 1987|DAN SULLIVAN | Times Theater Critic

The thaw has hit the theater. New Haven is seeing a play where a Soviet arms negotiator is as human as his American counterpart.

It's Lee Blessing's "A Walk in the Woods," inspired by the walk taken at the 1982 Geneva arms-control meetings by negotiators Yuli Kvitsinsky and American delegate Paul Nitze.

The production at the Yale Repertory Theater has Josef Sommer as the Soviet negotiator and Kenneth Welsh as the American one--Sommer genial and cynical, Welsh prim and proper. "It's their growing knowledge and understanding of each other that forms the core--and best moments--of the play," writes the Associated Press critic, Michael Kuchwara.

The New Haven Register's Markland Taylor called the play "a perfect antidote to television's 'Amerika,' " but not in any sappy way. "The play could be said to be profoundly pessimistic, if it weren't shot through with lashings of humanity and roaring good humor."

Director Des McAnuff will restage "A Walk in the Woods" for his La Jollla Playhouse in July.

In Paris, the actors of Moscow's Taganka Theatre, on tour with "The Cherry Orchard," were asked by reporters if they wanted to have Yuri Lyubimov back as artistic director. Lyubimov was barred from the U.S.S.R. after his 1984 London production of "Crime and Punishment." His successor, Anatoly Efros, died of a heart attack in January, so the job is open--and there are rumors that Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev is interested in bringing Lyubimov home.

According to Reuters all the company didn't seem thrilled about having Lyubimov return. Some members felt that he had smothered his productions in stage business, while Efros had concentrated on the psychology of the character--and the actor.

"It's like this," said actress Alla Demidova. "You have an actor and a chair which he has to treat as a horse. With Lyubimov, I see it's a chair, but I shall treat it as a horse. With Efros, I see it's a chair, I shall treat it as a chair, but deep inside I feel I am riding."

Lyubimov is currently staging "Crime and Punishment" in Washington. We'll have a report in Sunday's Calendar.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK. Chekhov: "The artist is not meant to be a judge of his characters and what they say: His only job is to be an impartial witness . . . to know how to distinguish important testimony from unimportant."

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