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Pict's 'Woman' shows strength in characters

| Monday, July 14, 2014, 7:06 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Karen Baum as Scarecrow and Nike Doukas as Woman in Pict Classic Theatre's 'Woman and Scarecrow' by Marina Carr, directed by Alan Stanford.

A woman is dying.

That's exactly what she does 2 12 hours later in Pict Classic Theatre's production of Marina Carr's “Woman and Scarecrow.”

Over the course of two acts, Woman and the mysterious Scarecrow go over events in Woman's life — regrets for things done and undone, concern for her children's futures and not a little trepidation about what comes next — that are only remarkable for how small and ordinary they are.

She's visited by her estranged husband and a disapproving aunt.

And there's something scary — presumably death — waiting in the wardrobe.

Whether some or all of these conversations, encounters and threats are occurring in real time or in Woman's mind are left to audience interpretation.

So is Scarecrow's exact nature.

She may be a spirit guide to help Woman onto the next world, an alter-ego, Woman's soul or simply the small, argumentative voice we all hear inside our heads.

“Woman and Scarecrow” might be considered a companion piece to Pict's “Waiting for Godot,” which the company performed last month.

The difference is twofold: Beckett's drama is about life, while Carr's play is about the leaving of it.

Moreover, Carr chose a much more comfortable location — an expansive, comfortable-looking bed — while Beckett's characters were given a rock under a barren tree.

Carr's strength is in constructing articulate dialogue that is interesting and occasionally funny.

Her decision to split the play into two sections with a 15-minute intermission may have been necessary for the actors. But it's a break that awkwardly forces the audience to re-commit to the world of the play.

The production's strength is in its lead characters, the always complexly interesting Nike Doukas as Woman and the equally intriguing Karen Baum as Scarecrow.

Doukas plays Woman with a ferocity of spirit and energy that belies her terminal condition. You can't help but feel that, if she had been half as feisty in life, she would have fewer regrets.

Baum's Scarecrow takes the role of devil's advocate, pointing out some of the ways taken or not taken and the deliberate delusions that led to the place where Woman finds herself.

James FitzGerald brings an important dose of ambivalence to the role of Him, Woman's husband. FitzGerald makes it less easy to decide if Him is truly as big of a cad and absent father as Woman portrays him.

There's less doubt about Sharon Brady's Auntie Ah. She's a cold-hearted — though often funny — stickler for the proper way of doing things, who revels in punishing Woman for how she chose to live her life.

Scenic designer Gianni Downs has created a spare setting with an opulent bed as its focus.

Ultimately, Carr brings closure to her play and Woman's life.

But while everyone — director Alan Stanford, the quartet of actors and the design team — has worked overtime to bring this play to life, Woman's inevitable death comes as a relief.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, acarter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

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