Credit: Carin Silkaitis

The titular daughters of Savanna Rae’s one-woman show—Scathach, Uathach,
Deirdre, and Queen Medb—all appear in the Ulster Cycle, a collection of
wild, violent, sexy, fascinating folktales set in a decidedly pagan Ireland
that were transmitted orally for generations before they were written
down—and modified—by medieval monks. Set during the reign of a capricious,
hotheaded King Conchobar mac Nessa (circa the first century CE), the tales
describe an intensely tribal warrior culture in which heroes—of which Cú
Chulainn is the best known—clash constantly over land, livestock, and
honor.

It is not hard to see why Rae, who wrote as well as stars in this show, now
at Open Door Theater, was attracted to the material. All of the women in
the tales are strong, bold, interesting, full-blooded characters. Scathach,
for example, is a warrior so adept at martial arts that the great Cú
Chulainn comes to her to learn from her. And Queen Medb, known for her
self-possession, beauty, and sexual prowess, seems very modern indeed.

Sadly, Rae isn’t equal to the task of releasing the full power in this
material as either a writer or performer. She can’t decide whether she’s
telling us a series of ripping yarns or presenting, to quote her press
materials, an “incisive feminist political and cultural analysis.” Instead,
she tries to do both and, as a result, does neither very well. She’s also
limited as a performer: all of the women look and sound the same. At 80
minutes the show feels too long.   v