PICKSINSIX Review: BLIND DATE
'BLIND DATE' "REAL PEOPLE ... WORLDLY VISION"
A turning point... As the clandestine meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev is about to begin at the Geneva Summit, then Secretary of State George Shultz and his counterpart, Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Shevardnadze, share a reflective moment. While looking out at the lakefront, Shultz notices Shevardnadze’s granddaughter scurrying about. It is significant, Shultz remarks, that he brought his granddaughter to such a turning point in international relations. Shevardnadze tells Shultz he is merely babysitting. Conversations like this one, between real people with a worldly vision, run deep through the Goodman Theatre’s sophisticated and smart world premiere production of Blind Date.
Reagan/Gorbachev legacy... the sweeping epic storyline, written by the award-winning playwright, Rogelio Martinez under the direction of Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls, brings East and West together in a fascinating historic reimagining of the first face-to-face meeting of Ronald Reagan and Mikahal Gorbachev. It is an insider’s view of the Reagan/Gorbachev era of hard-nosed diplomacy and line-in-the-sand Cold War rhetoric. And, there is the intrigue - and a fair amount of humor served up diplomatically - surrounding the closed-door meeting of two leaders who clearly understood the impact they would have on their two countries and the world.
A Four-Picture Deal... years after an assassination attempt and with direct involvement from Nancy Reagan, George Shultz and everyone else close to him, Reagan’s cinematic instincts remain keen. A Reagan soundcheck has international implications and there were spiritual forces at work at the time, as we now know. As if on cue, Reagan adeptly turned film references into policy points. Meanwhile, Gorbachev was redefining the Soviet Union’s place in the world order. Lots to ponder and the air crackles with the consequences of failure. “Well…”says Reagan, “The American people gave me a four-picture deal!” So, that means there is plenty of time and lots of stories to tell.
Public jousting... Shultz and Shevardnadze meet to broker a meeting between the two superpowers. Reagan offers up Washington, DC for the first site. Gorbachev refuses. Formal correspondence is exchanged and more public jousting, until the Geneva Summit is approved and scheduled in November 1985 at a time when the stars would be precisely aligned. While Gorbachev is heavily briefed and apparently starts watching American movies, Shultz plants the seed for a private meeting to mix things up and the rest is, well… history, including another clandestine meeting - that between Nancy Reagan and Raisa Grobachev – a delightfully engaging hand of liars poker, tea time style.
Top-flight cast... Rob Riley (Ronald Reagan), William Dick(Gorbachev), Deann Dunagan(Nancy Reagan) and Mary Beth Fisher(Raisa) are all excellent and bring an authoritative air to the piece leading a top-flight cast. Jim Ortlieb (Shultz) and Steve Pickering(Shevardnadze) along with Thomas J. Cox (Reagan biographer, Edmund Morris) combine brilliantly to frame historical context, sharing thoughts and possible outcomes along the way.
And, well, there’s much more... the massive, revolving conical set design by Riccardo Hernandez, lighting by Aaron Spivey and period perfect costumes by Amy Clark evoke a time of grand purpose and stately respect for two world leaders whose vastly opposing points of view might actually find some common ground in the future.
The takeaway… History happens while babysitting. Let someone take the kids for the night or bring a blind date of your own for this gem now playing at the Goodman Theatre.