The Scarecrow | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Scarecrow 

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The Scarecrow, North Lakeside Players. The subtitle of Percy MacKaye's The Scarecrow fits perfectly: "A Tragedy of the Ludicrous." Based on a Nathaniel Hawthorne story, MacKaye's 93-year-old script takes the romantic horror of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, pours it into a social satire reminiscent of Gogol's The Inspector General, and wraps that in old-style Yankee ethos a la The Scarlet Letter. The result is a Promethean comedy of manners that moves as strangely as its jerry-built protagonist yet also manages at times to be strangely moving.

The Dr. Frankenstein here is Goody Rickby, a Massachusetts witch with a fierce grudge against Justice Merton, the upstanding citizen who loved and left her many years earlier. She and her satanic familiar, Dickon, build a scarecrow they animate and pass off as an English aristocrat named Lord Ravensbane. The plan is to get revenge on Merton by having Ravensbane seduce Merton's lovely/

wild daughter, Rachel. And the plan works--entirely too well, in fact: not only do Rachel and the leading townsfolk fall for Rickby's ruse, so does Ravensbane, who finds himself seduced by humanity.

Tony Stedillie makes an urbane Dickon, and Nick Brenner does a good job of physicalizing Ravensbane's growing acquaintance with his body. But overall this production is just competent enough to let you know what you're missing so you can fill in the blanks. Still, that's a service when it comes to this quirky old play, and I'm grateful.

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