Mad Forest, Piven Theatre. Who really cares anymore whether the Romanian revolution of 1989 was hijacked by reactionary forces? At a time when all eyes are on the Middle East and North Korea, Caryl Churchill's 1990 play about the fall of the Ceausescu regime could hardly seem less relevant.
Mad Forest is about more than political history, however. Buried in all the didactic posturing and shards of intentionally fragmented narrative is the moving story of two sisters, Lucia and Florina, whose lives are deeply affected by Romania's political cataclysm. Their weddings frame Churchill's piece, and the emotional entanglements associated with their marriages provide the heart in this otherwise coldly intellectual play.
Happily, director Jennifer Green and her ensemble of Piven Theatre regulars and others, many of them trained in theater games and story theater, know exactly how to convey the play's emotional subtext and how to make Churchill's driest, most laconic scenes playful and emotionally rich. Gita Tanner and Joanne Underwood are especially delightful as Lucia and Florina. Watching these two reveal the different ways the sisters deal with personal and political setbacks reminds us that what matters most in making powerful theater is not political relevance but emotional honesty. And this production abounds in that.