Blind Date is a tongue-in-cheek telling of the story of the historic first meeting between American President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. From the negotiations and advanced planning behind the scenes to the actual encounter where the leaders of the two most powerful nations in the world discuss how to prevent a nuclear war that could destroy the planet. And it is funny as hell.
The Cold War as comedy at the Goodman Theatre
The title refers to the meeting of two “odd couples,” Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, and Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev. But, before any meeting comes the machinations involved in setting the whole thing up. The play opens with US Secretary of State, George Shultz (Jim Ortlieb) meeting with Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Shevardnadze (Steve Pickering) in a bar in Washington D.C. Right away the proverbial “fourth wall” is shattered when Shultz introduces himself and speaks to the audience before Shevardnadze arrives. Throughout the meeting, and indeed throughout the entire play, the actors turn to the audience with great quips, giving insight to what is going through their minds. For example, the private meeting between the two First Ladies becomes verbal sparring when Nancy Reagan (Deanna Dunegan) comments on the Russian ballet stars Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov who defected to the United States. With a sly smile she quotes an American expression, “your loss is our gain.” In response, Raisa Gorbachev (Mary Beth Fisher) turns to the audience and says “there is also an American expression; ‘bitch!’”
The characters are believable. Deanna Dunegan’s Nancy Reagan is spot on. William Dick is quite convincing as Gorbachev, complete with the blood red birthmark on his head. Rob Riley as Ronald Reagan is not an exact characterization, but an excellent interpretation. He plays the role of the seemingly distracted or even naive Reagan, telling simple stories or insisting that Gorbachev watch an old movie on TV with him. However some of his funniest moments turn out to be quite profound. In one scene Reagan talks about a drawing given to him by a school child. The audience laughs when he says the paper was blank. Then he explains that he turned it over and found a drawing of two shaking hands. He compares it to the possible outcomes of the meeting between the two powerful men; on one side peace and friendship or on the other side, nothing.
The stage setting (designed by Riccardo Hernandez) appeared simple at first, a grey circular wall with two doors. But throughout the show the wall moves to reveal a bedroom, a conference room or the Oval Office. A rotating walkway is used very cleverly when Reagan and Gorbachev are taking a walk, followed by their entourages, strolling along on the moving floor while never leaving stage center.
Written by Rogelio Martinez and directed by Robert Falls, Blind Date is a bit of nostalgia for some, a lesson in the historical realities of the cold war for others. Total entertainment for everyone.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Through February 25, 2018
Sunday, February 4th, 25th -2:00 PM and 7:00 PM
Sunday, February 11th, 18th - 2:00 PM
Tuesday, February 13th - 7:30
Wednesday, February 7th, 14th. 21st - 7:30
Thursday, February 1st, 15th, 22nd - 2:00 PM and 7:30
Thursday February 8th - 7:30
Fridays - 8:00 PM
Saturdays - 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
The Goodman Theatre
170 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60601
Steve Bellinger was born and raised on the West Side of Chicago by a single mom who worked nights for a printing company. She would bring home books and magazines to encourage her kids to read. This is how he discovered Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and the other masters of classic science fiction. It didn’t take long for him to get the itch to write. Over the years he’s written everything from newspaper articles, comic strips and radio drama to short stories and fan fiction. He is the author of the science fiction time travel novel The Chronocar. His second novel, Edge of Perception, is due to be released in 2018.
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