A lonely, oppressed farm girl, on the cusp on womanhood, develops a strange fascination in the cornfields in Don Nigro”™s Scarecrow, a dark and twisted drama now playing at the Avery Schreiber Theatre in NoHo.
Cally (Linda Tomassone) dwells in an isolated farmhouse with her mother Rose (Deborah Lemen), a troubled shut-in who cowers in fear of the outside world. Meanwhile, Cally watches her days tick slowly away on the multiple clocks in their home, yearning for a life away from this claustrophobic place. The girl is both spooked and fascinated by the old scarecrow in the nearby cornfield. Sneaking out to wander among the tall corn plants, Cally meets frequently with a mysterious stranger (Ian Jerrell) who embodies all her mother”™s deepest sexual anxieties. But who or what is this Scarecrow figure?
Linda Tomassone has been haunted for years by this ominous and disturbing play, ever since she first read it in college. For this entrepreneurial thespian, Don Nigro”™s spooky play has become an obsession. Tomassone recently formed her own theatre and film company, Ice2Sand Productions, in order to produce and star in this three-handed drama.
Her director, Antony Berrios, has done a good job of staging Nigro”™s play. An earthy smell greets you as you take your seat, thanks to the six-foot tall corn plants and hay bales off to one side of the stage. Opposite this cornfield, the farmhouse set is basic and sparsely furnished with a rocking chair, a wooden chair and a table. Notably there are no fewer than six clocks ticking away on the walls, each displaying a different time. An empty crucifix is also prominently placed among the many clocks. Upstage hangs a scrim, onto which black and white images of cornfields, scarecrows and farmhouses are projected throughout the show, even a brief video sequence of the girl being swallowed up by the corn. The occasional sound of crickets chirping and crows cawing adds to the eerie ambience.
Rose, Cally”™s eccentric Mom, refuses some cereal her daughter tries to insist she eat, and says she is “creeped out by crunchy foods,” claiming it”™s like having “cockroaches in my mouth.”Â When Cally urges her sickly Mom to take better care of herself, the unspoken implication is so that she doesn”™t have to. The pair constantly bicker with each other, trading sarcastic comments, while clingy Mom shoots down all her daughter”™s dreams of a future exploring the wide world.
When we see the handsome young man in the cornfield that Cally secretly meets, we, too, almost fall under his charming spell. This sweet-talking fellow urges Cally to take back her life and her inheritance from her mother and run away with him. These words caress the ears of this impressionable girl, like rain on a parched field. But it turns out that crazy Mom knows a lot more than Cally can ever imagine about the stranger in the cornfield.
At times I felt that the way Don Nigro”™s play jumps back and forth from heartfelt monologues to dialogue could have been handled with a little more finesse. His occasional stabs at poetry seemed overreaching, as well. As the insidious suggestions planted by the smoothly manipulative man increase in intensity, “Scarecrow” starts to feel like one of those plays where everyone is trapped in a cycle and it”™s going to take something drastic, like a murder, for change to happen.Â Thankfully, what does happen is a little less predictable than I imagined.
With a tight running time of just over an hour, “Scarecrow” is an interesting if imperfect play. Everyone gives fine performances, especially Ian Jerrell as the appealing young man that represents Cally”™s hopes for freedom.
Now playing at theÂ Avery Schreiber Theatre
11050 Magnolia Boulevard
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Runs until October 17th, 2009
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
***Wine & Cheese “Meet and greet” with the artists after each show***
Tickets: $20; Seniors and Students $15
Box Office and further information, please call: (818) 766-9100
Pauline Adamek is a Sydney-born, Los Angeles-based Critic & Writer.
first posted on MyDailyFind.com