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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "When We Were Young and Unafraid" at NY City Center Stage I
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "When We Were Young and Unafraid" at NY City Center Stage I

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Shon 45 Wines & Spirits
(Shon 45 Wines Web Page)
840 8th Ave (50th-51st)
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Mon - Thurs 10AM - 11PM
Fri - Sat 10AM - 11:30PM
Sun 12PM - 9PM

Manhattan Theatre Club
When We Were Young and Unafraid
(When We Were Young and Unafraid Website)

By Sarah Treem
Directed by Pam McKinnon

Manhattan Theatre Club
NY City Center Stage I
West 55th Street, Btw. 6th and 7th Avenues

Artistic Director, Lynne Meadow
Executive Producer, Barry Grove

Cherry Jones, Patch Darragh, Cherise Booth
Zoe Kazan, Morgan Saylor

Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Jessica Pabst
Lighting Design: Russell H. Champa
Original Music & Sound Design: Broken Chord
Hair & Wig Design: Leah J. Loukas
Fight Direction: Thomas Schall
Production Stage Manager: Denise Yaney
Casting: Nancy Piccione
& Kelly Gillespie
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Artistic Producer: Mandy Greenfield
Director of Artistic Development: Jerry Patch
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production Managers: Bethany Weinstein
& Joshua Helman
Stage Manager: Dane Urban
Artistic Line Producer: Lisa McNulty
General Manager, When We Were Young and Unafraid:
Lindsey Sag

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 7, 2014

Sarah Treem’s new play, When We Were Young and Unafraid, at Manhattan Theatre Club’s City Center Stage I, has high ideals, but can leave the viewer with a sense of frustration at the intertwining plots and subplots that evolve sporadically. In 1972, within a comfortably furnished kitchen of a bed and breakfast off the coast of Seattle, Agnes (Cherry Jones), proprietor of this homey abode, bakes muffins, real ones, with which the emotionally starving cast nurture themselves. Agnes’ high school daughter, Penny (Morgan Saylor), a bookish, but yearning teen, with a yen for Yale, has a “secret love”, as most teens do, and she dreams of the prom. Agnes’ paid guest is Paul (Patch Darragh), from San Francisco, who arrived with his guitar to write songs and heal his heart, as his wife split with a “hippie”. (It’s the 70’s). A knocking and bell soon sound through the floor, and Agnes lifts a trap door for a domestic violence refugee, Mary Anne (Zoe Kazan), who’s suffering with a bleeding gash near her blackened eye. Agnes, a former nurse, stitches the wound, onstage, lights on. Later, Hannah (Cherise Boothe), a youthful African American, athletic visitor, forces her way into Agnes’ kitchen, looking for work, on her way to a political colony for women who want to live without men.

By time Hannah arrives, the plot is thick and layered enough, as Paul and Mary Anne attempt to seduce each other, Mary Anne forces her will on Penny, who switches into a dress and makeup to seduce a football star, Hannah attempts to seduce Agnes, on her late re-appearance, after Penny has also disappeared, and so on. Some characters begin to test one’s nerves, as they’re performing in directorial unlikeability. The Director of this play, Pam McKinnon, also directed the recent Steppenwolf production of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which has quintessentially unlikeable characters. But, in that play there’s relationship war. In this play there’s relationship repression. However, finally, near the end of the second act., Cherry Jones has her steamy spotlight, her private fireworks. Yet, by then, there’s little audience investment into her fate, her security, her sense of self. In the 70’s, women were rehearsing with new personas, testing new norms. But with this circus of characters, in their endless, approach-avoidance conflicts, nobody cares if Hannah leaves or stays, if Penny chooses Yale or the macho guy, if Agnes and Penny restore mutual trust, if Mary Anne returns to the abusive thug or runs off with the songwriter, or if Paul finds solace and soul in Mary Anne or his lonely guitar.

Ms. Treem’s play has a provocative dialogue and series of scenes that are well worth the ticket. Zoe Kazan rivets the eye and the mind, as she rapidly flirts with danger, grabbing that telephone in the dark. She’s a study in contradictions, as she draws the audience in. There were audible gasps, more than once emanating from the rows, as fear spread, for Mary Anne’s safety. Cherry Jones, as well, drew us in, during her unleashing of her hidden hardships. Scott Pask’s set is warm wood and braided rug, while Jessica Pabst’s casual clothing is a propos to the scene. Russell Champa’s lighting is mostly warm, and Broken Chord’s sound keeps dialogue in focus. For me, the high point tonight was meeting Zachary Quinto, who sat in a nearby seat. Mr. Quinto had appeared with Ms. Jones as her son, Tom, in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie last season. Coincidentally, Patch Darragh had appeared in the previous Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie, as Judith Ivey’s son, Tom. Six degrees of separation.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at