Wrens at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble | Theater review
Rivendell revisits Anne McGravie’s quietly moving portrait of a women’s unit in World War II.
To open its 16th season and the first full slate in its new Edgewater storefront, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble revisits its inaugural production. Playwright Anne McGravie’s quietly moving 1996 work follows a clutch of “Wrens,” members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service, a kind of women’s auxiliary to the British Navy in the first and second world wars. McGravie herself was a member of the WRNS during World War II, and she sets her play among seven women sharing a Nissen hut on the north coast of Scotland on the eve of V-E Day.
The women come from all corners of the Commonwealth, ranging from Welsh housewife Jenny (Rebecca Spence) to proper English prude Cynthia (Jodi Kingsley) to 17-year-old Scottish orphan Meg (a terrific Amanda Powell). They chatter and clash over their homelands, religions (Catholics vs. “Protties”), Britain’s place in the world and, above all, what things will be like after the war, when they’ll have to leave this place of relative independence and accomplishment for women of their era to return to the comforts and constraints of “civvie life.”
It’s a warmly observed portrait of a moment when women and the world were on the cusp of palpable but unknowable change, as well as a jarring reminder of just how much attitudes have changed in only 70 years (one of the women, revealing she’s been sexually assaulted, frets her boyfriend will never forgive her “for letting it happen”). Director Karen Kessler and her top-notch cast fill out McGravie’s remembrances with skill and care.