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Woman And Scarecrow
Not since Lazarus has someone undied. — Scarecrow
Pamela J Gray and Stephanie Roth Haberle. (Photo by Carol Rosegg).
Theatergoers averse to splashy musicals and other light-hearted fare may find themselves well suited to Marina Carr's Woman and Scarecrow at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Directed by Ciaran O'Reilly, it gives us an up-close and personal look at a deeply-flawed woman in her final hours of life.

The play is fundamentally a lament for a character named Woman who at the point of death discovers that she has lost her footing as a human being. Mother of eight children and wife of a philanderer, Woman finds herself alone with Scarecrow, her alter ego, and witness to their shared past. Though Scarecrow scolds Woman for never fully inhabiting her life, Scarecrow will remain loyal to Woman til she takes her final breath. Though the presence of this alter ego somewhat curbs Woman's fear of the Big Sleep, it doesn't erase the fact that a noisy crow-like creature is beating its wings and making ominous sounds in the wardrobe.

The play does have its share of black humor and high spirits. Woman, in fact, has more vim and vigor than your typical person in the pink of health. For example, when Woman asks Scarecrow for a mirror to watch herself dying, Scarecrow mockingly hands over the mirror to her, asking if she is looking for "vestiges of your beauty." Unfazed, Woman takes the mirror, and after gazing into it, concludes: "I am graveyard chic, angular, lupine, dangerous . . . I am slowly carving myself into a Greek statue. . . Admire me for once in my skeletal queenality." Obviously, Woman is dying but she's not going gently into that good night.

If Woman clings tenaciously to her life, the voice of reality steps in with Auntie Ah (Dale Soules). Much like Scarecrow, Auntie Ah immediately finds fault with Woman, and asks her "why she didn't go to a doctor sooner?" Auntie Ah's gripes against Woman gain more sting when she tells Woman that she has no "finishing power." According to the down-to-earth Auntie Ah, who proudly announces that she buried Woman's mother, anybody can get through the first half of life. But it's the latter half that separates the wheat from the chaff.

While Auntie Ah knows how to rub the proverbial salt in the wound, so does Woman's unfaithful husband named Him. Him, in fact, outdoes Auntie Ah's callousness by visiting his dying wife with his latest flame just out of sight. Though Woman may seem to be beyond the pale at times, Him seems to be downright diabolical when it comes to saying his final "goodbye" to his wife.

On the credit side is the finely nuanced performance of Stephanie Roth Haberle as Woman, aided by the strong presence of Pamela J. Gray as Scarecrow. Aidan Redmond and Dale Soules round out the cast with two credible turns as Him and Auntie Ah who are able to elevate Woman and Scarecrow from a drama encrusted with symbolism to something that surprises us with glittering shards of truth

The small W. Scott McLucas Studio Stage is well-suited for staging Carr's play. Charlie Corcoran's claustrophobic set, abetted by Michael Gottlieb's chiaroscuro lighting, visually mirrors the mindset of Woman, who feels that death is encroaching upon her life more and more as the hours pass. Bob Flannagan's puppet and mask design are rightly eerie, as is Ryan Rumery's sound and original music.

Woman and Scarecrow is an ambitious play. It is brimming with references to popular culture, literature, and mythology, and daringly juxtaposes the parable of Lazarus with the five nevers and four howls of King Lear. That said, it doesn't totally succeed as a drama. But it surely will remind you that nobody escapes death.

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Woman and Scarecrow by Marina Carr
Directed by Ciaran O'Reilly
Cast: Stephanie Roth Haberle (Woman), Pamela J. Gray Scarecrow (Pamela J. Gray), Aidan Redmond (Him), Dale Soules (Aunty Ah).
Sets: Charlie Corcoran
Costumes: Whitney Locher
Sound: Ryan Rumery
Lighting: Michael Gottlieb
Puppet and mask design: Bob Flanagan
Stage Manager: April Ann Kline
The Irish Repertory Theatre at the W. Scott McLucas Studio Stage, 132 West 22nd Street. Tickets: $50. Phone (212) 727-2737 or visit online
From5 /09/18; opening 5/20/18; closing 6/24/18.
Wednesday @ 8pm; Thursday @ 7pm; Friday @ 8pm; Saturday @ 3pm & 8pm; Sunday matinee @ 3pm.
Running time: 2 hours; 20 minutes with one intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 5/30/18

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