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Real-Life Arms Control Players Say Play’s Not the Thing With PM-Arms Treaty Bjt

May 24, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ It was perhaps the ultimate inside Washington scene - a Broadway play about arms control being put on in front of the secretary of state, the negotiator whose action formed the basis of the production, and a dozen members of the Senate fresh from debating an arms control treaty.

And the consensus was that while ″A Walk in the Woods″ is an entertaining production, it wasn’t like the real thing.

″It bore no resemblance to reality, that’s what made it so good,″ Secretary of State George P. Shultz said after viewing the dark comedy. ″It was interesting, it gave you a lot of laughs, and it took your mind off your work.″

In a case of carrying coals to Newcastle, the producers of the play offered to bring it to Washington for a production at the Library of Congress, across the street from the Capitol.

The one-time-only production was sponsored by several senators, including Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Pell said he thought the production ″dramatizes the human side of what is too often a faceless bureaucracy.″

The two-person play starred Sam Waterston as the American negotiator and Robert Prosky as his Soviet counterpart. Written by Lee Blessing, it was loosely based on the private 1982 talk between Paul Nitze and Yuri Kvitsinsky.

That Geneva discussion produced an agreement between the two men on the framework for a medium-range missile treaty, but the plan was later rejected by both governments.

Nitze said he was entertained, but agreed with Shultz. ″It didn’t bear any relationship to anything we talked about. I didn’t hear anything said on stage that was anything like my talk.″

″You had a certain amount of theatric license,″ Nitze said with a laugh, noting that in the play, the Soviet negotiator was several decades older than the young American. In reality, the reverse was true.

But like the play, the private talk between Nitze and Kvitsinsky produced no lasting agreement.

″Yes, it’s true we certainly didn’t succeed, but it was fun to try,″ said Nitze.

The Nitze-Kvitsinsky talks were part of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) negotiations leading to the treaty now before the Senate.

Maynard Glitman, Nitze’s successor, also attended the production. His review: ″It’s a dramatization, and while it’s good, it’s not like reality.″

All three men said they enjoyed the play, precisely because it bore little resemblance to reality.

″It was a good characterization and a lot of laughs,″ Shultz said.

About 250 people were invited, including diplomats and members of Congress.

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