Sir Alec GuinnessFrom Alec Guinness's 1999 book, A Positively Final Appearance: "My last performance was at the Comedy Theatre on May 1989, in an American play called A Walk in the Woods. It was a two-hander, with Ed Herrmann, with whom I became great friends, and I playing USA and USSR diplomats. When the curtain finally fell I remember turning to Ed and saying, 'That's the last performance I shall give on any stage'; to which he replied, 'Balls!' or something like that."
Herrmann, 45, turned up for an interview at a Chelsea pub dressed in the natty style his latest role demands. "The character in the play wears a tie, and there's a value in keeping in the clothes you are going to play in," he said. He took the role solely for the chance of acting opposite the great Guinness, having turned down offers to do it at the Yale Repertory Theater in New Haven, and on Broadway last February. "When I heard Sir Alec wanted to do it, it was something I wanted to put my hat in the ring for," said Herrmann. "The way Alec does it, it's just a charmer."
The place is a "pleasant woods on the outskirts of Geneva," where two arms negotiators, a Russian and an American, meet informally after long, frustrating hours at the bargaining table. The Russian, Botvinnik, a seasoned veteran who has mastered the Soviet "hard line," is urbane and humorous but, at the same time, profoundly cynical about what the current sessions can accomplish. His younger American counterpart, Honeyman, a newcomer to the arms-control talks, is a bit stuffy and pedantic, but also fervently idealistic about what can -- and must -- be achieved through perseverance and honest bargaining.
They continue their informal meetings as the talks drag on and the seasons change. Through their absorbing and revealing conversations, we become aware both of the deepening understanding between these two wise and decent people and also of the profound frustration which they increasingly feel as they struggle to, as Honeyman says, “prevent the total destruction of every living thing on this planet.”
A WALK IN THE WOODS, by Lee Blessing. A brilliantly-executed play which brings deep perception and unexpected humor to its probing examination of a subject of crucial importance --the superpower negotiations on nuclear disarmament. Two arms negotiators, an American and a Russian, meet informally after long, frustrating hours at the bargaining table. In a series of meetings, as the seasons change, we become aware of both their deepening understanding and their profound frustration with the bargaining process, knowing as they do that no changes will come about as long as the real power rests in the hands of those burdened by the bitterness of the past.
Für J.A.H.: nephew to Edward, brother to Jill, and drinking companion to Alec."To say the least, it has been a privilege to have Edward as my uncle. Personally, he has been a good friend to me over the years, acting (pardon the pun) in the role of mentor, spiritual advisor, and confidant. Professionally, I am honored to have seen much of his stage work over the years (the stage remains his first true thespian love, I think), in works as diverse as "Love Letters", "A Walk In The Woods" (yes, I made it to England to see he and Sir Alec Guinness perform and got to tip a few pints with them both afterwards), and "Julius Caesar", as well as his countless movie and television roles. I was fortunate to be able to visit him on numerous movie sets (as a boy, nothing beat the thrill of being on the Disney Studios lot as they made "North Avenue Irregulars"), and the one thing that always strikes me about Edward is his thorough professionalism and deeply centered conviction that acting is one of the purest, sensual arts.
My uncle is a learned man; his scholarly air is not acting, for he has spent years devouring poetry, prose, fiction and non-fiction, to the point where he could easily teach graduate level courses on numerous subjects within the fields of philosophy, religion, sociology, history, and literature. I have often thought that, were he not drawn to the stage, he would have made a marvelous professor and writer. Who knows; perhaps someday he will put pen to paper in such a fashion."