When We Young and Unafraid
By Sarah Treem
Directed by Pam McKinnon
What's It All About?
It's 1972 and single mom Agnes (Cherry Jones) is trying to get her daughter, Penny (Morgan Saylor), to stop worrying about trying to get into Yale and go to the prom. Penny's idea about the perfect boy might be different, but her mother just doesn't get it.
Or maybe she does. Agnes has been running a safe house for battered women who arrive in the dead of night at the bed and breakfast on coastal Seattle. Mary Anne (Zoe Kazan) is one of the women seeking shelter there, but she might just bring more trouble than she's worth. She doesn't listen to Agnes' rules and contacts her violently abusive husband. She also ha "boy-catching" advice for Penny who has her eye on the school's football star.
Adding to the drama are Paul (Patch Darragh), a guest at the B and B who is interested in Mary Anne and Hannah (Cherise Boothe), a feminist looking for work as a handywoman on her way to a commune of lesbians convinced that men need to be eliminated from the equations.
What Are the Highlights?
Jones gives a moving, deep portrayal of a woman not sure how to do what is best for her daughter or for the women who end up in her care. "If you're going to go back," she challenges Mary Anne, "Tell me in person and to my face." She also isn't sure how to cope with the changing times, or with Hannah's obvious interest in her. McKinnon skillfully coaxes complexity in each role even the minor ones of Paul, who isn't who he seems to be, and Hannah, who surprises us with stability and strength. Kazan simultaneously appeals to our sympathy with Mary Anne's vulnerability and frustrates us with the character's stupid choices. Treems's story is engrossing.
What Are the Lowlights?
None, except that the subject matter is difficult. I enjoyed it. It gives an interesting perspective on women's issues before Roe s. Wade.
When We Were Young and Unafraid plays through Aug. 10 at Manhattan Theatre Club at New York City Center Stage I, 131 West 55th St., NYC. The show is recommended for ages 12 and up. whenwewereyoungandunafraid.com.
Christians might also like to know:
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Explicit dialogue
-- Sexual activity