Woman and Scarecrow is one of the most recent works by Marina Carr, the Irish playwright who penned By the Bog of Cats and On Raftery’s Hill. The two-act play takes place in a dying woman’s bedroom as she sorts out the conflicting perspectives on her quickly fading life, especially her stale marriage with an unfaithful husband.
Carr’s Script Explores Final Hour Questions
HE SAID: There are a lot of interesting concepts at work in this play: looking back on choices in a life now full of regret, feeling stuck in a relationship that is utterly unhealthy, questioning your legacy and what will happen to your survivors. All of these ideas are explored in a two hour conversation between the dying woman and her imaginary, mythical, inner-voice personified in a “scarecrow”. This conversation is occasionally interrupted as the woman faces off with her stoic aunt (who is to take care of the children) and her cheating husband.
SHE SAID: Marina Carr clearly has writing talent — most of the lines were poetic, thought-provoking, and examined some of the most basic questions of life (and therefore death). However, I didn’t find her skill as a playwright to be on display in this particular play, as very little action took place onstage, making the show’s reliance on words make it seem more literary than theatrical. The reflections at the end of a life can be compelling, and at times they were, but the material didn’t have enough variation to sustain my full engagement for the full duration.
Woman’s Painful Death Hinders Connection to Discussion of Life
HE SAID:While some of the ideas covered in this play are relatable, I had a hard time losing myself in them because the play is difficult to watch. Setting an entire play in one small bedroom with the central character lying bed-ridden makes any “action” incredibly scarce. The woman’s frequent loud groans and screams made it hard to listen to many sections of dialogue. While I commend Rita Broderick for believably bringing a woman’s painful final hours to life, I sat uncomfortably watching as the play became more about her death than her life.
SHE SAID: I have to agree that I found it a bit hard to move past the slow, agonizing death. Psychology research shows that people go to pretty great lengths to avoid confronting thoughts of their own death, and so the entire concept was fighting an uphill battle. While the presence of the Scarecrow was a theatrical device for the woman to converse with different sides of herself, for long stretches it still felt to me like little more than a monologue. On the plus side, Broderick tackled an emotionally challenging role with a firey spirit and a strong and consistent dialect. I also enjoyed the few scenes that included Lori Hanson as the pious Aunt — I found her characterization to be compelling and engaging, and wished we saw more interaction between Broderick and the other characters in her life.
Special Figure Lacks Needed Mysticism
HE SAID: Scarecrow stands, in part, as a defender against the figure of death (commonly signified by a crow). Paige Lynn Larson did a fine job in the character and balanced the high drama of the woman well. However, she looks more mystic in the pictures shown than she does in the actual show, which brought her too far into the realm of reality to make her magical nature make sense.
SHE SAID: I agree that the production did not take the theatrical device of Scarecrow as far as it could have — aside from the fact that the other characters onstage didn’t acknowledge her presence, she seemed mostly human. To continue the discussion of design elements, I will say that I did enjoy the scenic design (by Ericz Sarzen-Barillo and Wade P. Wood) – it was simple, well-executed and interesting to look at.
Literary Pleasure Eclipsed by Pain
THEY SAID: While this play offers a lot to discuss philosophically, you need to steel yourself to watching a woman going through an apparently excruciating death to listen in on the conversation. While we appreciate the amount of work occurring on stage, especially by Broderick as the woman, we unfortunately had trouble getting past that hurdle and never fully connected with the show’s dialogue and ideas (its real strengths).
Woman and Scarecrow runs through October 30 at the Denver Victorian Playhouse. Please click the banner below for tickets and more information.