Written by Alexander Ostrovsky
Translated by Kathleen Tolan
Directed by Brian Kulick
Starring Dianne Wiest, John Douglas Thompson, Adam Driver, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Herb Foster, Lisa Joyce, Lizbeth MacKay, George Morfogen, John Christopher Jones, Tony Torn
Performances through May 30, 2010
Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th Street
Alexander Ostrovsky, a master 19th century Russian playwright, is best known for his stirring melodrama The Storm,Kata Kabanova. We rarely encounter Ostrovsky's plays themselves, so having The Forest, his melancholic comedy, onstage in a new, conversational adaptation/translation by Kathleen Tolan, is a revelation of sorts, however uneven the work itself is transformed by Leos Janacek into the operatic masterpiece
Ostrovsky sketches these people with gentle humor and humaneness, even if his play, at least in Brian Kulick’s staging, is uncomfortably reminiscent of Shakespeare (especially in the comic interludes featuring Gennady, Arkady and Raisa’s servants) and Chekhov, whose indomitable spirit hovers over Ostrovsky’s familiar characters throughout.
If the satirical The Forest only intermittently rises above its being dated with touches of welcome humor, don’t blame designer Santo Loquasto, on whose impressively austere set—comprising a staircase and wooden planks, all painted green and wittily arrayed as Raisa’s estate—a solid cast does the author proud. There are two standouts: John Douglas Thompson, who plays a humorously bellowing Gennady; and Dianne Wiest, a veteran of at this kind of role, whose Raisa lords it over everyone with the commanding actress’s intelligence and keen comic timing.
originally posted on timessquare.com