WOMAN AND SCARECROW (Irish Heritage Theatre): When did this all end in tragedy?

Woman and Scarecrow Irish Heritage Theatre review

Kirsten Quinn as Woman and Mary Lee Bednarek as Scarecrow. Photo by Dawn Brooks.

Im fatal. Terminal.

This woman, with her boundless capacity for bitternessis dying of spite,as she struggles to understand her life before its over in Woman and Scarecrow, the latest offering from Irish Heritage Theatre.

Marina Carrs 2010 existential, feminist play is two hours of wildly mournful keening, filled with rich Ianguage and intense questions and rueful comedy.  Peggy Mecham directs with a delicate hand.

An unnamed Woman (an incandescent and subtle portrayal by Kirsten Quinn) is in bed, unconscious; most of what we watch is a drama playing on her internal stage. Besides the bed there is a tall wooden cupboard, a wardrobe which holds something huge, with black feathers. The intermediary between them is her alter-ego, Scarecrow (Mary Lee Bednarek, whose sepulchral thinness serves her well in this terrifying role, although the accent often gets in her way).

We learn that  Woman ran West”—a direction in Irish literature that always stands for both rural, authentic Ireland as well as death (anybody who knows Joyces story The Dead will recognize this paradigm). When she collapsed, she was brought home to die in bed. We learn she has eight children (the ninth couldnt stay the course),  an unfaithful husband (David Bardeen, wonderfully conveying desperation, exasperation and guilt). As Scarecrowher own insight embodiedtells her, you martyred yourself to a mediocrity.There is also the inevitable auntie (Tina Brock, radiating old-time religion and outrage).

The play is built on conversations, real and imaginary. Her memories are of food and of men, of smokinand flirtinin Pariswhy did I come back?; her regrets are many. She looks in the mirror and loves the way she looksillness has given her sharp cheekbones and graveyard chic.

Kirsten Quinn, surely the youngest person onstage, looks wonderfully ancient. Her faceher eyebrows!expresses what then need not be said. Marina Carr is a contemporary female voice: Woman is not pitiable in some old-fashioned way; looking back on a life unfulfilled, she sees that she was constricted by her own cowardice and sense of duty.

We are left wih a questionperhaps the question: When did this all turn to tragedy?

[Irish HeritageTheatre in co-production with Plays & Players, at Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place] October  November 9, 2019

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About the author

Toby Zinman

Toby Zinman is a recently retired professor of English at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a Fulbright professor at Tel Aviv University and a visiting professor in China. She publishes widely and lectures internationally on American drama. Her fifth book, Replay: Classic Modern Drama Reimagined, was published by Methuen, and she published the essay, "Visions of Tragedy in Contemporary American Drama," in 2017. Zinman is also the chief theater critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. She was named by American Theatre magazine as, “one of the 12 most influential critics in America.” Her travel writing has taken her all over the world, from dogsledding in the Yukon to hiking across England.