The Singing Forest

Craig Lucas's epic is one of the year's weirdest plays.

  • Photographs: Carol Rosegg

  • SHRINK RAP Groff and Pourfar, left, pay onetime therapist Dukakis a visit

Photographs: Carol Rosegg

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Craig Lucas's new play is in many ways a disaster, but so willful and ambitious a disaster that it commands your staggered respect. In nearly three hours, with two intermissions, Lucas takes Marx's maxim that history repeats itself first as history, and then as farce, and smooshes it into a strange, sticky ball. The Singing Forest is partly a dead-serious drama about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, set in 1930s Vienna, and partly a wacky door-slamming comedy, set in New York City in 2000 and centered on a belligerent, elderly phone-sex operator with cancer. These two highly disparate stories unfold in tandem, to gobsmackingly odd effect.

"Sometimes life is just preposterous, you know?!?!" screams one addled character, after attempting to explain some of the far-fetched interconnections that Lucas has devised for the people in his play. But the continually shark-jumping preposterousness of The Singing Forest doesn't feel remotely lifelike—despite Mark Wing-Davey's striking, cinematic staging, and notwithstanding the best efforts of an expert nine-person cast that includes Olympia Dukakis, Jonathan Groff, Susan Pourfar, Mark Blum and Louis Cancelmi. The play is contrived from beginning to end: a lyrical public psychotherapy session about parenthood, honesty, responsibility and homosexuality, prodded by the presence of Sigmund Freud himself as a character. It would be tempting to say that The Singing Forest goes off the rails, but this crazy train, for better or worse, stays on exactly the tracks that Lucas has laid for it. The ride is never dull.—Adam Feldman

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Public Theater. By Craig Lucas. Dir. Mark Wing-Davey. With Olympia Dukakis. 2hrs 45mins. Two intermissions.