When We Were Young and Unafraid OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Joan Marcus
  • When We Were Young and Unafraid
  • NY TIMES

  • VARIETY

  • NBC

  • TIME OUT

  • EW

Opening Night:
June 17, 2014
Closing:
August 10, 2014

Theater: MTC - Stage 1 / 131 West 55th Street, New York, NY, 10019

Synopsis: 

When We Were Young and Unafraid is set inside an underground women’s shelter in the early 1970s—before Roe v. Wade, before the Violence Against Women Act, before women had places to turn in times of distress. Agnes has turned her quiet bed and breakfast into one of the few spots where a woman on the run can seek refuge. But to Agnes’ dismay, her latest young runaway Mary Anne is having a profound influence on her teenage daughter Penny, forcing each girl to question her destiny. And as the drums of the feminist revolution grow louder, Agnes is forced to confront her own presumptions about the people she’s been trying to help.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF When We Were Young and Unafraid

    A Woman’s Place at a Pivotal Moment
    ‘When We Were Young and Unafraid,’ With Cherry Jones

    Ben Brantley

    June 19, 2014: The year is 1972, and a new age of feminism is dawning as women grope to find voices to match their evolving identities. Well, some of them are groping. The female characters in When We Were Young and Unafraid, Sarah Treem’s debate-driven new play at City Center Stage 1, appear to have little difficulty articulating their viewpoints or making sure that we know exactly where to place them on a shifting scale of political consciousness. Such meticulously laid-out clarity may be a boon to those who like the assistance of road signs in finding their way to a theme. But it subverts the potential narrative power of this earnest, thoughtful drama, which opened on Tuesday night in a Manhattan Theater Club production starring the formidable Cherry Jones and directed by Pam MacKinnon. Ms. Treem, who was a writer and producer on the acclaimed HBO series In Treatment, finds the feminist flux and foment in an era that has in recent years been more traditionally presented as comically quaint and awkward (à la That ’70s Show). And she has come up with a smart and exciting premise to bring characters of different backgrounds — and different notions of what it means to be a woman at a pivotal historical moment — into proximity and conflict.

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  • VARIETY REVIEW OF When We Were Young and Unafraid

    Off Broadway Review: ‘When We Were Young and Unafraid’ Starring Cherry Jones

    Marilyn Stasio

    June 18, 2014: Cherry Jones heads up a first-rate cast in When We Were Young and Unafraid, a provocative if loosely constructed play by Sarah Treem that looks back with pride (and a hint of horror) to gender politics in 1972. The mismatched residents of a women’s shelter on an island off the coast of Washington seem poised for ideological battle. But something — perhaps the scribe’s day job as a writer-producer of “House of Cards” and other shows — derails the drama, which loses focus and momentum, fragmenting into mini-dramas that resemble episodes in a series that might not be renewed. If nothing else, Treem’s play could serve as a teaching tool for a generation of girls who need reminding of their grandmothers’ contributions to women’s rights. In 1972, the modern-day feminist movement was in its second stage, when the politics of “women’s lib” had turned from demands for economic parity to action on social issues like physical abuse and reproductive rights. The ban on women practicing law had been recently lifted, but Roe v. Wade was still a year off.

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  • NBC NEW YORK REVIEW OF When We Were Young and Unafraid

    Review: Cherry Jones Stars in an Affecting Drama with a Feminist Slant

    Robert Kahn

    June 18, 2014: The lives of a sheltered teen and an abused wife intersect at a pivotal moment for each in When We Were Young and Unafraid, an affecting drama from thirty-something playwright Sarah Treem. Directed by Pam McKinnon (Clybourne Park), the MTC production has just opened at New York City Center’s Stage I. Cherry Jones leads the 1970s-set ensemble piece as Agnes, owner of a Pacific Northwest B&B that does double-duty as an underground shelter for domestic violence victims. Only a sliding door to Agnes’s kitchen separates paying vacationers from these battered women, whom the proprietress instructs to remain upstairs and out-of-sight until their wounds heal.

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  • TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF When We Were Young and Unafraid

    When We Were Young and Unafraid

    Helen Shaw

    June 18, 2014: 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. 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.

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  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF When We Were Young and Unafraid

    When We Were Young and Unafraid

    Thom Geier

    June 18, 2014: When We Were Young and Unafraid is set in pre-Roe v. Wade 1972, but the clothing isn't the only thing that's dated about Sarah Treem's new drama. The production, playing through Aug. 10, at Manhattan Theatre Club's Off Broadway Stage I, is a kind of distaff throwback to the kitchen-sink realism of an earlier era. This time, though, it's angry young women who rage against the indignities of a patriarchal society — or try to find their way, quietly, within its strictures. Cherry Jones leads a fine cast as a bottled-up ex-nurse (one guess as to why she lost her job) who runs a B&B on a remote island outside Seattle. She's rearing a 16-year-old daughter (Homeland's Morgan Saylor, in an impressive stage debut), a nose-to-the-grindstone bookworm who secretly lusts after the football captain. She's also made a habit of sheltering young women like Mary Anne (Zoe Kazan), who arrives with a shiner from her abusive soon-to-be-ex-husband (unless, of course, she decides to slink back to him). Into this refuge storms a militant lesbian (Cherise Booth), a college-educated African American who's searching for a nearby commune dubbed Womynland.

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When We Were Young and Unafraid Review REVIEWS

Opening Night:
Closing:
Open Ended

Theater:

Synopsis: 

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. 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.

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