by Emily Edelman
Heidi Armbruster’s semi-autobiographical one-woman show “Scarecrow” opens with two well-meaning friends offering awkward advice to the main character on how to make funeral arrangements for her father, who is in the hospital dying of cancer. Based on the author’s own experience of living with her father for the last 33 days of his life, the work is beautifully acted by playwright Armbruster and skillfully directed by Dorset Theatre Festival artistic director Dina Janis.
Christopher and Justin Swader’s imaginative set has enough practical elements to be sensible but is playful and surreal enough to exist within the main character’s mind. The play’s title comes from the main character’s depiction of seeing articles of her father’s clothing scattered around his house after his death, remarking that they reminded her of unmatched pieces that a scarecrow might be dressed in. The play, which had occasionally seemed a little disjointed with a slightly confusing timeline, came together much better for me after that description: That’s not only what makes a scarecrow (pieces that fit but don’t necessarily complement), it is also a relevant metaphor for grief, which doesn’t present itself the way we think it should or feel how we think it should or even end if and when we think it should.
Armbruster’s deeply honest and sympathetic writing about a difficult subject, her many entertaining voices, and her much-needed and hilarious moments of comic relief are an excellent combination resulting in a compelling and insightful show.
“Scarecrow” runs through Saturday, July 23, at the Dorset Theatre Festival in Dorset, Vermont. For tickets and information, go online or call the box office at (802) 867-2223.
Playwright/performer: Heidi Armbruster; director: Dina Janis; stage manager: Rob Chikar; scenic designers: Christopher & Justin Swader; costume designer: Fabian Fidel Aguilar; lighting designer: Paul Whitaker; sound designer: Fitz Patton.
Download the full Dorset 2022 Season Program