Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Singing Forest

Photo: Carol Rosegg

Is it possible to combine mistaken identities, accidental murders, jealous lovers, two different time periods, slamming doors, Freud, Starbucks, a psychiatrist ex machina, the Holocaust, rape, and reconciliation into one coherent, moving, comic drama? Maybe not, but in The Singing Forest, Craig Lucas comes close, with moments of brilliance and heartbreak along the way. Loe Rieman (the amazing Olympia Dukakis), severely damaged by the loss of her brother in the Holocaust and the seeming betrayal of her children decades later, has deliberately isolated herself from the world. Yet part of her still needs and wants to connect. A phone sex/therapy line, memories/hallucinations, and more coincidences than in a Dickens novel bring her face to face with her life, past and present, and help her achieve a measure of peace. Lucas's juxtaposition of farce and grim reality veers from starkly effective to uncomfortable and back again, and the varied plot lines achieve varied levels of success. Overall, Lucas has written a piece that is both messy and dazzling, impressive in its ambition even when it falls short. Beautifully directed by Mark Wing-Davey, with an excellent cast including Mark Blum, Jonathan Groff (whose ability to cry onstage is on a par with Bernadette Peters' and Alice Ripley's), and Susan Pourfar.

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