On a lucky-for-me Saturday in New York city in 1988 I scored twice at the Times Square same-day, cheap ticket booth — single (back row) tickets to two big hits: Sondheim’s Into the Woods (Bernadette Peters) and Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods (Sam Waterston and Robert Prosky).

I was alone — an advantage for last-minute ticket hunters — and intrigued by two shows in the big city about things that happened in the forest. Both shows were brilliant and couldn’t have been more different. And no poison ivy or tick bites. Just rich theatrical nourishment that has remained indelible in my memory.

Fast forward 27 years. Everybody knows and loves Sondheim’s witty melange of twisted musical fairy fables (“I was raised to be charming, not sincere”). Since 1988, Sondheim’s Into the Woods has been deservedly reprised up and down the beanstalk by almost every theatre troupe on this ever-loving, forest-depleting planet.

Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods? Much less so, partly because for several decades the two-character play seemed outmoded and irrelevant and, in a word, history.

The Cold War is over, dudes and comrades! Who wants to eavesdrop on the imagined conversations in the Swiss woods of American Paul Nitze and Russian Yuli Kvitsinsky during the 1982 nuclear treaty negotiations? Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall. That was that. Right?

Give me some giant-stalking! Now there’s relevance, with or without a happy ending.

Unfortunately, now that we are in the post-post-Cold War era, with Putin sending troops into Ukraine, NATO barking up Russia’s trees, European and American arms negotiators in Lausanne (welcome back to Switzerland, guys) and hammering out a treaty with pre-nuclear Iran, maybe A Walk in the Woods has come back around as a timely (forgive me, please) Blessing.

Producer/director MJ Bruder Munafo has tweaked the casting fundamentally in this production for the Vineyard Playhouse with fascinating results. The optimistic American negotiator has become the attractive female African-American diplomat, Joan Honeyman, depicted vivaciously and subtly by Adrienne D. Williams. The older, jaded Russian negotiator, Andrey Botvinnik, is masterfully personified by Daren Kelly, whose dry humor, served with a flinty Leningrad accent, charms and exasperates his American counterpart.

The pace of the show is syncopated and tantalizing, allowing for the chemistry between the two opponents/partners to crackle and spout in the thin mountain air. Their intense personal debates reveal much about the souls of the characters, their respective nations and the frustrations that are part of humanity’s fate in this post-post nuclear age.

One feels and fears Beckett’s one-tree forest:

ESTRAGON: Ah! (Pause.) You’re sure it was here?


ESTRAGON: That we were to wait.

Dan Murphy’s Russian-flavored, deliciously nostalgic incidental music drifts in and out with entrancing effect. You’ll be humming it on the way out. The Swiss woods themselves are depicted ingeniously by the collaborations of scenic designer Mac Young, lighting designer Jeffrey E. Salzberg and technical director Boaz Kirschenbaum. Congratulations, guys.

MJ Bruder Munafo’s visualization and careful embodiment of this very contemporary drama is a great and tenderly presented gift to playhouse audiences.

Bring your friends, hum the songs on your way out and when you get home, be sure to do a tick check. Every year in Switzerland there are at least 10,000 reported tick bites (mostly wood ticks, by the way).

Just when you thought it was safe to take A Walk in the Woods.