― Iris Murdoch
My first time at Mamai Theatre Company certainly turned out to be an elegant affair. Presently, they are producing Woman and Scarecrow, by Irish playwright Marina Carr. Although Carr is not a feminist, her plays bolster femininity, and defy previous thoughts of weak women into ones of strength. In this play, we find a woman who is on her deathbed. Her interactions with her spiritual partner, and family, unfold in a fascinating, and chilling expose on the last moments of life. Throughout the entire play, “Woman” ( played brilliantly by Derdriu Ring*), is confined to her bed. Mostly, she interacts with her spiritual psyche named Scarecrow (a haunting Bernadette Clemens*). Along the way, there are visits from her Auntie Ah (Mary Jane Nottage), and her husband, described as “Him” (James Lally).
As the play begins, in the darkness we hear breathing, but you can tell there are two breaths that seem to be lying in wait. And, indeed there are. Ring is in bed, with Clemens playing opposite of her on the floor, verbally sparring with each other, as the details of her last moments are discussed. What concerns Woman is the question of “Who is going to take care of……?. That question tears her apart, as she realizes that her eight children will not have her to guide them. These are just one of the worries of someone who is dying. Through their interactions, you can see they are both tied together physically and emotionally, especially when dealing with affairs of the heart.
Scarecrow challenges Woman for answers that she wants herself. She does so by taunting her with treasures such as “Your spite is that the world didn’t live up to your standards.” When visits from Auntie Ah and her husband take place, it becomes apparent that Scarecrow can only be seen by Woman. This leaves us wondering who exactly is, or what exactly does Scarecrow represent for this dying woman. Those answers are left to us to decipher.
The dialogue between the two never gets tiring. Each actress is so focused and in the moment, that you are completely taken in with their journey together. Interfused are visits from two characters that certainly complicate a desire for anyone to go smoothly into the after world. Nottage as Auntie Ah, comes across as fiery as her red hair. She sets off easily, and doesn’t a comforting asset. But, beautifully performed. And then, there is the total dick husband, as portrayed by Lally. What a piece of work is man. Well this man, played with emotional coldness, it delightful to want to kick his ass. So many people will connect with a relationship that is one-sided and blinded with love, and Lally’s performance certainly creates a jerk, who has the ability to climb into bed with his dying wife, and somehow comfort her. It is tough to watch. Beautifully executed.
The Production Team was firing on all cylinders. Director Pandora Robertson made the most of her debut. Beautiful staging, fabulous concept for the set, and created a remarkable intimacy for all of us to share. Inda Blatch-Gieb’s Costume Design was wonderful, and especially Clemens’s death outfit was fierce. She also killed it with the scenic design, with lush draped carpets to contain the sound and add to the color of the evening. Rob Peck delivered a deft lighting design, that greatly enhanced the moments throughout the performance.
The team of Ring and Clemens is a delectable treat that needs to be seen. This is the first time I have seen them together, and I certainly hope it is not my last.
*Actor appears courtesy of the Actor’s Equity Association
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$10-$20 Reserved Seating/General Admission
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Pilgrim Church at Lincoln Park
2592 W 14th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113