WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND UNAFRAID Review

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND UNAFRAID presented by Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati through March 12. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.

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Delaney Ragusa as Penny & Christine Dye as Agnes. Photo by Ryan Kurtz.

Given the description of the show, I half-expected a two-hour-plus, heavy drama. However, playwright Sarah Treem offers an enjoyable slice-of-life play that brings the appropriate weight to the important topics her script discusses.

I very much enjoyed the quiet, no-nonsense brutal honesty that Christine Dye gives to Agnes. There is a great inner strength to the character that makes her easily likable and, at times, even a bit intimidating.

Also strong is Delaney Ragusa as Penny, Agnes precocious daughter. The two have a great chemistry and are easily believable as mother and daughter. I also thought their performances within the set came across as familiar and spoke of habitual routine.

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Kat McCaulla as Mary Anne & Christine Dye as Agnes. Photo by Ryan Kurtz.

Kat McCaulla brings brave-faced vulnerability to Mary Anne, the victim of abuse who seeks safety at the B&B. Part of that vulnerability comes from her immaturity, which is evident in how easily she relates to Penny and her high school boy drama.

Zak Schneider is strong as painfully square, heart-on-his-sleeve Paul and he does a nice (and unexpected) job of showing the not-so-nice side of the character.

Rounding out the cast is Tess Talbot as the outspoken, man-hating Hannah. Talbot portrays her as a force of nature in her actions and opinions, but still seems adrift in what direction to take her life. Her desire to find a place in Agnes’ life and mission seems to stem from her need to make change happen beyond just words.

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Zac Schneider* as Paul & Kat McCaulla as Mary Anne. Photo by Ryan Kurtz.

The set and lighting design by Brian c. Mehring is pitch perfect for this show. Add in Shannon Rae Lutz’s wonderful eye for set decor detail and it’s easy to lose yourself in the locale. My grandparents owned a bar that also served as the family home so the vibe of the set felt right to me. Costumes, designed by Mary Murphy, and wigs also did well in helping to set the period.

Director Drew Fracher shows an experienced hand in keeping all characters believable, even when you are shaking your head at some of their questionable decision making. The show was paced well. With so many scenes, I wish the playwright had been more aware of how much time the audience spent in the dark during the required costume changes. Thankfully ETC picked some great ’70s songs for the scene changes.

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Tess Talbot* as Hannah, Delaney Ragusa as Penny & Christine Dye as Agnes. Photo by Ryan Kurtz.

Opening night there were a couple of moments that pulled me out of the moment briefly. The energy level during one scene began to noticeably drop. The cause seemed to be the actors were preparing for an onstage slap they were not  yet comfortable with. Also, the moments leading up to a pivotal revelation didn’t quite reach the emotionally-charged level I expected. Following that revelation, it was unclear how it impacted the character receiving the news.

Overall, a strong drama that tackles the subject of domestic abuse with strength, humor, love, and no guarantee of a happy ending.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

I would enjoy hearing what you think about the show or my review. All I ask is that you express your opinion without attacking someone else’s opinion. You can post your comments below.

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