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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Public theater

By Matt Windman

  Jonathan Groff and Olympia Dukaks/Ph: Michelle V. Agins

Craig Lucas is probably the most frustrating playwright in New York. At least for anyone who has enjoyed his earlier, lighter fables such as Reckless and Prelude to a Kiss.

His recent, more politically charged plays are so passionate and epic that they are uneven, rambling, convoluted and extremely overstuffed. In other words, his ambition has interfered with his ability to successfully tell a story.

The Singing Forest, a three-hour production that requires two intermissions and most of the cast to play multiple roles, to combine a family comedy set in contemporary New York, a 1930s Holocaust drama set in Vienna, and random meditations on modern psychoanalysis.

Olympia Dukakis plays Loe Rieman, an 80-something former psychoanalyst who has turned into a reclusive phone sex operator on Staten Island. Meanwhile, her rich grandson has hired an unemployed actor, played by Jonathan Groff, to impersonate him in front of a series of psychiatrists.

One day, Loe recognizes her adult daughter at Starbucks. Pretty soon her son needs help too. In fact, at the end of Act Two, the entire cast has found its way into her apartment for some reason or another.

It is unlikely that any director could have brought a sense of clarity to the play. While Mark Wing- Davey sincerely attempts to direct the ongoing flow of traffic on an ugly urban set, the production only feels powerful in a handful of short well-acted scenes.

Dukakis excels at playing the protagonist, who is dry and witty but is also dealing with deep and uncomfortable emotional scars from her past. Groff, who is now appearing in his second Craig Lucas play this season, makes a firm distinction between his modern-day character, who is youthful and confused, and his historical counterpoint, who is unashamed of his sexuality and individuality.

There is a good play somewhere inside The Singing Forest. The real question is whether Craig Lucas can find it.



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