When We Were Young and Unafraid: In brief
The great Cherry Jones (The Glass Menagerie) returns to the boards in a new play by Sarah Treem, set at a bed-and-breakfast that serves as an oasis of safety for young women in the early 1970s. Zoe Kazan plays a troubled runaway who threatens the place's peace; Pam MacKinnon (Clybourne Park) directs.
When We Were Young and Unafraid: Theater review by Helen Shaw
Sarah Treem’s self-defeating drama When We Were Young and Unafraid begins with a promising setting: a ’60s bed-and-breakfast doubling as a women’s shelter, where Agnes (Jones) offers succor to domestic-violence escapees. In the play’s competent first moment, Agnes and her 16-year-old daughter, Penny (Morgan Saylor), bicker sweetly. Our hopes rise: a work about women saving women! But Treem soon buries the duo under a series of hacky, over-machined, self-contradictory scenes, all veneered with appeals to sisterhood.
New refugee Mary Anne (miscast Zoe Kazan) has a black eye, but she’s still boy-crazy. She manages to divest Penny of her nascent feminism while coaching her into a prom date; Afro-sporting badass Hannah (Cherise Boothe) barges in just to offer Mary Anne a foil. These are straw women, given unmotivated, screaming climaxes but written with no regard for actual behavior. Only Jones, warm in her silences, can muscle a character out of Treem’s haphazard work. The play defeats even director Pam MacKinnon, whose legendary control can’t reel in Treem’s illogic—but then, you can’t steer a car with a blown tire.—Theater review by Helen Shaw
THE BOTTOM LINE The clumsiness of this inconsistent drama will not help any sister out.