LA WEEKLY – June 1-7 2001
by Percy MacKaye

at Pacific Resident Theatre

Adapted from a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story, playwright Percy MacKaye’s compelling fantasy drama takes place in 17th-century Puritan Massachusetts. Once impregnated and abandoned by the now prominent Justice Merton (Steve Irish), social outcast Blacksmith Bess (Alley Mills) plots her revenge. She collaborates with the devil, here named Dickon (Orson Bean), to fashion an animated scarecrow (Tom Wood) who will woo and win Merton’s niece, Rachel (Jacqueline Heinze), thus establishing Satan’s hegemony within Merton’s family. Posing as a British lord and his tutor respectively, the Scarecrow and Dickon wow the community’s hypocritical peerage-worshipping elite. Merton sees through the royalty ruse but, threatened with exposure of his past sins, he acquiesces to Dickon’s demand to marry the Scarecrow and Rachel. Even the Devil’s plans are upended, though, when the pair fall in love for real, and the Scarecrow begins to yearn for his own independent humanity. Directed by Charles Stratton, MacKaye’s richly literate script satisfyingly juggles dark satire with the most serious reflections on what it is to be human. Act I pulsates with incendiary performances by Mills and Bean, and though Wood’s failure to grab the role drains power from the play’s final, moving catharsis, Bean becomes the magnetic hub of a strong production. Pacific Resident Theater, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 15. (310) 822-8392. (Deborah Klugman)

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