By Holli Harms
Marina Carr’s new play, Woman And Scarecrow, now premiering at the Irish Rep, is exquisite, sublime, smart and damn funny. Woman, played by the incomparable Stephanie Roth Haberle and Scarecrow by the brilliantly talented and funny Pamela J Gray, are pugilists with their words, sparing off and punching out. This is one hell of a good play with an ensemble that takes your breath away, makes you think, and touches your heart.
Woman is on her deathbed and by her side is her constant companion in life, Scarecrow. In the wardrobe waits death itself. In the rest of the house are the children and relations. Everyone is waiting for Woman to die, especially Woman.
What is a definition of a life well lived, a life worth fighting for? Woman says she is dying out of bitterness because, “Bitterness is the aristocracy of spite.”
Woman wanted a passionate existence. Her definition of passion: the singer Demis Roussous eating nine lobsters in one sitting. “A man who can eat nine lobsters, there’s no stopping him.”
To Woman, Scarecrow is a destroyer, the one who has sucked all the joy out of life. Scarecrow was the problem, not Woman.
Scarecrow sees Woman’s life as a life not lived. A life squandered away, not worth sticking around for. Scarecrow believes there could have been more. She sees clouds, they live life more, they have an infinity to drink it all in. Woman did not. She stayed in a marriage with no love, gave birth to ten children, nine of which survived, and, “Why,” Scarecrow says, “did you have so many? So you could look at them and point and say that one’s mine, and that, and that.” A selfish act all these children. A selfish act, all of Woman’s life.
Scarecrow is, in a sense, the tapes in our heads, the shouldas, wouldas and couldas that fill our moments when the worries and concerns take a break. We compare and despair again and again to make us feel something or allow us to give up and do nothing because doing something means work and trying. Isn’t it easier to complain about the burnt toast, the broken glass, than to do something about it? Scarecrow says, “This world’s job is to take everything from you. Yours is to not let it.”
Taking Dylan Thomas’s advice, “Do not go gentle into that good night… rage, rage against the dying of the light,” Woman does exactly that. For two hours in the downstairs black box at the Irish Rep, she and Scarecrow and Aunty Ah and Him all fight and love to the end. Woman fighting for what is left of her life, and the rest fighting to get her to her death. This dragging out of life is wearing and they want an end, not for Woman’s sake, but their own.
Woman and Scarecrow is an event to be witnessed that will leave you the richer. Take a friend so that you can go out afterwards and discuss what you have experienced and what it all means to that thing you call your life.
Set design by Charlie Corcoran, costume design by Whitney Locher, Lighting design by Michael Gottlieb, and Sound design & Original music by Ryan Rumery, Dialect Coach Stephen Gabis
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 10 minutes, including an intermission.