Friday, May 07, 2010

The Forest at the Classic Stage Company

If all you know about Russian theater is Chekhov, it's worth a visit to the Classic Stage Company, where The Forest by his predecessor Alexander Ostrovsky is playing through May 30.

In the Classic Stage Company newsletter, director Brian Kulick describes Ostrovsky as a mix between Chekhov and Shakespeare. In The Forest, Raisa Pavlovna (Dianne Wiest) tries to marry off her niece Aksyusha (Lisa Joyce) to an awkward young man named Bulanov (Adam Driver), but Akyusha is in love with Pyoter (Quincy Dunn-Baker), who she can't marry without a dowry, which she will only get if she marries Bulanov, that is, until Raisa finds herself attracted to him. If that sounds like the unrequited lovers of Shakespeare's comedies, you can see where the comparisons come from. There are some funny moments in the play, especially when Driver is on stage, but they are not without darker undertones. Even in the happy ending, you get the feeling that nobody really got what they wanted.

Other than the chance to see a rarely-produced work, the main draw in this production is John Douglas Thompson, who plays Raisa's nephew Gennady. I'm sorry I missed his raved about turns in Othello and The Emperor Jones because he is truly a mesmorizing performer. There is nothing inherently wrong with this production, but it seems to lack a certain spark whenever Thompson is off the stage.

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