“WRENS” a bit uneven but worth seeing at Prism Theatre Company
By Chuck Lavazzi
Written by Joanne Fistere
When Prism Theatre Company co-founders Trish Brown and Joy Addler started their company in March 2020 they said, “launching a theatre company in a world where the future of theatre was uncertain definitely kept us on our toes.” Earlier this year they produced critically acclaimed “Doubt”. They were recently awarded Editor’s Choice for Theatre Newcomer by St. Louis Magazine. Their current production, “WRENS”, has special meaning to Trish Brown as it was her MFA Thesis project and initiated a treasured friendship with the playwright.
“WRENS” by Anne V. McGravie, and directed by Ms. Brown, is the story of seven women serving in the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) on the eve of VE Day, WWII. All of the action takes place in their barracks off the north coast of Scotland. The women, ranging in age from seventeen (and a half!) to late twenties, are from different parts of the British Isles, all from diverse backgrounds, and have served in the WRENS for varying lengths of time. As with any dormitory situation there are comrades in arms and personality clashes. The plot shifts when one of the WRENS has a personal crisis that challenges the cohesion of the group.
There are some lovely moments in this ensemble piece. Jade Cash as the newbie WREN Meg electrifies the stage the moment she enters. Her character’s enthusiasm is infectious, and she nicely balances the brattiness of a teenager with her desire to befriend fellow WRENS. There are layers of maturity and vulnerability she brings to bear as well which round out her character. Well done on her Scottish accent work too!
Sadie Harvey as by-the-book Cynthia and Sara Naumann as her collaborator Doris play beautifully off of each other, especially in one scene over tea discussing their lives outside of the war. They both bring a realistic feeling to what life might be like in close quarters during war time, with equal parts disdain for some and esteem for others. Camryn Ruhl as the enigmatic Chelsea has the perfect stage presence for this pivotal, albeit practically non-verbal, role. However, a few lessons in stage smoking are definitely in order (but good for Camryn, and her lungs, for not being a smoker!).
Ashley Bauman plays Gwyneth, the comic relief WREN, with one long brash over-the-top note with little nuance or variety. As such, her introspective monologue in act two makes no sense, as we have seen no traces of real humanity in the character thus far. Similarly, Avery Lux as Jenny, Gwyneth’s pal and mother hen to many of the WRENS, locks into the one emotion of unwavering motherliness precluding any sense of vulnerability or her life outside of the world of WRENS. Sam Hayes as troubled Dawn plays the crisis from the start of the play to the end.
All in all this is an ambitious undertaking for Prism Theatre Company and I applaud Ms. Brown and Ms. Addler for their third full length production. Prism’s mission is to promote the work of women and emerging artists, onstage and off, through the lens of theatre for the new world. This beautiful play certainly helps achieve that mission. This is a story about women coming together for each other in a political climate that is less than supportive of their physical choices and personal health. There is a content warning: This play contains discussions of rape and abortion, and there is one very brief moment of partial nudity.
“WRENS” with Prism Theatre Company at The Kranzberg runs through September 24th. For tickets and information go to the Prism Theatre website.