Wait Worse Than Death: In Woman and Scarecrow, Mendenhall (left) hangs in an agonizing limbo.

Folger Theatre’s appetizingly bright Arcadia takes some of the sting out of the sobering truth that an end comes to everything; Woman and Scarecrow, Solas Nua’s latest engagement with Irish playwright Marina Carr (after The Mai and Portia Coughlan), seems to insist that we look that gloomy fact in the face, and to ask whether we’re doing enough in the now to make less of a tragedy out of that eventual then. Jennifer Mendenhall’s caustic, bedridden Woman and Nanna Ingvarsson’s pacing, yearning Scarecrow—the latter’s a kind of animating spirit, maybe the Woman’s soul—rehash past outrages and long-held resentments, stopping now and again to argue about whether the Woman’s one-sided love for an unfaithful husband (Brian Hemmingsen) could ever be said to stand in for a life really lived. Death waits nearby, meanwhile—quite nearby, if that rumbling from the wardrobe is any indication. Intriguing, all that, and Carr’s language, which samples from the styles of mortality-besotted bards as diverse as Shakespeare and Beckett, can be transporting. The novelty wanes in Act 2, it’s true—and as a matter of dramaturgy, if you’re going to have your grave-bound character literally fight death and win a half-hour reprieve, it’s probably best to wrap things up in less than the 50 minutes Carr’s second act requires. But if Woman and Scarecrow ultimately seems like a morbidly eloquent talk marathon, the fine, fierce performances (including a pungent supporting turn from Rena Cherry Brown as the Woman’s sweetly poisonous aunt) certainly do help pass the time.

More from WCP