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TO AUG. 7

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It’s a small miracle in that Alexander Ostrovsky’s The Forest is being performed at the Greenbelt Arts Center. Ostrovsky, a 19th-century playwright as important to Russian theater as Chekhov, is still relatively unknown outside his native country, so it’s a treat to see this talented writer get some exposure on the American stage. Like many other comedies of the era, The Forest is a commentary on contemporaneous political events, but its timeless writing and universal themes of greed and hypocrisy help it remain relevant—and funny—to present-day audiences. Ostrovksy created the play only nine years after the emancipation of Russian serfs, so it’s fraught with political tension. The play’s original script is five hours long; director Grey Valenti has wisely cut her production down to two-and-a-half hours. Think of it as a really long—and successful—Saturday Night Live skit featuring all the essentials of a Russian play: a wealthy widow, some peasant merchants, a poor relative, and gossiping neighbors. The set is sparse and edgy, the lighting dramatic without being overbearing, and the soundtrack—music from The Black Rider, an opera written by Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs—creates a sense of melancholy and otherworldliness. A surprise gem in the cast is 15-year-old Bronwen Grebe, whose comedic timing and natural demeanor on stage do a great deal to make The Forest a fun and lively experience in Russian theater. At 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 25, and Sunday, Aug. 1, to Saturday, Aug. 7, at the Greenbelt Arts Center, 123 Centerway, Greenbelt. $10. (301) 441-8770. (Irina Slutsky)