The Forest – Theater Review
The most dangerous creatures in the forest are two vagabond actors, posing as gentry, who crash a nearby estate, turning an orderly manor upside down
The Forest is down at the Classic Stage Company on East 13th. It’s a play by Alexander Ostrovsky, and the sizeable cast is headed by Diane Wiest and John Douglas Thompson. It’s sort of an amalgamation, of Chekov and Shakespeare and does credit to neither. It’s not that I mind the writing so much, it’s either the director or the acting. Diane Wiest, who is a wonderful actress, just chews on the scenery on this one and is never believable. The story is of a wealthy Russian woman who has a crush on a young school boy who has been promised to a poor relative who is staying with her. And there’s some subplots about the young girl and her having another boyfriend whose father is trying to buy some acreage from Diane Weest’s character and is trying to cheat her. And then, there is some sort of a vagabond, who is an actor who apparently is the nephew, even though he’s black, which is a little confusing. I mean, I’m all for multiculturalism, but if you’re trying to establish a familial relationship, the fact that one is black and one is white doesn’t help move the plot forward. I mean, you can see, it’s a little bit of Twelfth Night, a little bit of the Cherry Orchard, and the fact that the set looks very much like the Seagull or the Cherry Orchard doesn’t help things at all. The play itself is a little bit labored, but at least it has some interesting components to it. The problem really is the acting, other than John Douglas Thompson, who is apparently in a different play and is quite wonderful. He comes on and he’s very energetic and very clear, and it’s just that he doesn’t really look like he could be Diane’s nephew. Everybody else is unclear about motivation. I don’t know if they’re tripping over the language or the Russian names or the fact that the scenery is so austere or the fact that the audience is sitting, literally, in their lap. But, this didn’t work for me at all and half the audience left at the intermission. One star.