Reykjavik: A Review

reykjavik

Last night Salt Lake City’s Plan B Theatre Company hosted the Pulitzer Prize Winning author Richard Rhodes for a free reading of his play Reykjavik. The play is an intimate look at the 1986 summit talks between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. Reagan (Robert Scott Smith) and Gorbachev (Jason Tatom) exchange personal stories between their heated discussions of how to eliminate nuclear weapons. Rhodes created the play from a combination of Soviet and United States transcripts taken at the summit talks, and a fresh dose of his imagination.

Rhodes exquisitely crafted the narrative from otherwise droll transcripts, and Smith and Tatom brought his words to life. Reykjavik dramatizes and compartmentalizes a moment in history that would be otherwise unpalatable to many—particularly a younger generation. Sitting against a simple backdrop of the words “Reykjavik” the two men hunker down at a table and benches for seventy-five minutes of dramatic discussion. Ultimately, the famous talks in Iceland didn’t produce a treaty, but the two men were closer than any of their predecessors to the goal of complete nuclear disarmament (a fact that compelled Rhodes to write the play).

For someone of a younger generation, some of the references were lost, but instead of feeling lost, Reykjavik makes me want to learn more about our country’s relationship to nuclear weapons. Almost more important than last night’s play was the post-show discussion between Richard Rhodes and playwright Mary Dickson. Rhodes explained how the United States spends $31 billion dollars per year protecting an arsenal of weapons that we claim we will never use. He hopes for a time when we no longer store nuclear weapons.

He acknowledged how we can’t uninvent the bomb, but shared with the audience steps all nations can take to decrease the likelihood of their use. In particular he talked about dismantling pieces of the bombs and storing them in separate facilities. Depending on how the process is undertaken, it could be six months before any one country can put together a bomb for use. By dismantling the bombs and forcing countries to piece them back together, the worst that can happen is it takes months for the world to arrive at exactly the space we are now.

Words aren’t enough to describe the success of last night’s production of Reykjavik, but at the very least we must say “thank you” to Plan B Theatre Company and Richard Rhodes for sharing such a compelling story at no cost.

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