The Singing Forest

  • Date:
    April 1, 2009
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall


    A review by Tulis McCall

    I A-D-O-R-E-D the first act of this play. The writing is brave and the actors are precise. Lo� Rieman (Olympia Dukakis) is a woman filled with opinions, overflowing with philosophy and literally haunted by memories of WWII Vienna. She attends an AA meeting and questions the idea of making amends. Could Hitler make amends, she asks? And what about that prayer �God grant me to accept the things I cannot change�.� What if the Allies had used that as their mantra and stayed home? Think about that you sanctimonious creatures. Think about that.

    Oh, yeah.

    Scattered around her are a number of relationships that are surprises. Gray Korankyiis (Jonathan Groff) has a job impersonating a very rich and very anonymous person on a search for a shrink. Rich and Anoymous has strange dreams and lives in isolation for fear that he would be mobbed in the street if anyone knew who he was. Two of the shrinks Gray is considering are gay and former lovers. One is attracted to Gray and the other would like to see him make an inappropriate move. Gray�s girlfriend, Beth (Susan Pourfar) is pregnant and not certain she can count on him. They argue and he picks up the paper to call an anonymous �help� line. A disguised voice answers and intrigues him. Is this sex or is it therapy? It is both in the form of Lo� Rieman.

    That�s just one story line in some very clever story weaving. There are about five story lines that all end up at Lo� Rieman�s doorstep. This includes, but is not limited to, her relationship with her two children to whom she has not spoken in decades (one of whom is gay shrink #1 Dr. Oliver Pfaff [Mark Blum]) and her grandson who is Rich and Anonymous.

    Act two begins promisingly enough as we are transported to Austria and watch Lo� Rieman grow up. This talented company change roles with the exception of Dukakis, and we slide easily back and forth between her childhood and her present.

    Then something happened. Maybe it�s in the air at the Public. It seems that whatever ailed Christopher Durang had an antidote that Craig Lucas mainlined.

    The play comes to a screeching halt as we go back to more of WWII memories we don�t need and then are catapulted back to the present as all concerned converge on Lo�s home. At this point everything becomes a little like I Love Lucy when she would have Ricky in the living room and a secret in the kitchen, which kept her flying back and forth like a spinning top. That is what Ms. Dukakis and this very fine cast are asked to do. They do it well, but they shouldn�t have been asked to do so.

    Identities are revealed and stories told, but by then we are so tired of beaten about the head that we really don�t care. This is so very disappointing. Such a glorious opening salvo and such a soggy d�nouement.

    Defeat snatched from the jaws of Victory.

    Tulis McCall


    What the press had to say.....

    "ambitious but muddled comedy-drama"
    Chales Isherwood
    NY Times

    "overcaffeinated and rambling"
    Joe Dziemianowicz
    NY Daily News

    "Lucas (playwright) overstuffs his play to such a degree that even the most indulgent viewer's patience will be sorely tested."
    Frank Scheck
    NY Post

    "should close after Act One, before, amazingly, things manage to get even worse"
    John Simon
    Bloomberg

    "There are no coincidences" is not just the mantra of Craig Lucas' dense and deeply felt The Singing Forest; it's also the three-act play's organizing structural principle. That leads to one of the most unusual instances I've seen of dramatizing theme through form."
    Erik Haagensen
    Back Stage

    "the play proves thoroughly provocative, thanks to a compelling story, a strong cast and novel stage direction."
    Peter Santilli
    Associated Press

    "the play's premise about a family's need to resolve its unfinished history begs to have its head examined."
    Marilyn Stasio
    Variety