MUST SEEREVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams



By Anne McGravie

Directed by Karen Kessler

At Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Chicago

Heartwarming drama of World War II women living together while serving in the British Navy

In a remount of their 1996 hit, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble has mounted a fine true ensemble theatre work featuring seven women. We get to know all seven totally different personalities as each struggle to get along in their cramped quarters in Scotland. Serving in the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) known as “WRENS.” these sever represent the 74,000 women who replaced men in non-combat support jobs in the Royal Navy. These women were clerk/typists, code operators, mechanics.etc. They lived in metal huts and they were subject to military discipline.

Playwright Anne McGravie, herself a WREN, uses her experience as a teen member of the corp to give us a glimpse into what it was like to serve in WWII. Along the way, she has penned a marvelous story of how women from different elements of English life can exist together, form their own rituals, and establish unique relationships and common bonds. Director Karen Kessler swiftly has the cast of seven crunch time as she tells the story of the group during the last two days of the War in Europe in May of 1945.

We see the groups routine, learn abut each one’s foibles, and experience the fluid relationships. From the stoic motherly Jenny (Rebecca Spence) to the chatty, aggressive Gwyneth (Mary Cross) to tea-maker Doris (Meg Warner to the child-like Dawn (Ashley Neal) to the naive teen newbie Meg (Amanda Powell) to the ‘by-the-rules Cynthia (Jodi Kingsley) and the mysterious, standoffish Chelsea(Katrina Kuntz) – we get to know and like each women.  Here pace, expert acting and atmosphere make for a naturalistic atmosphere.

Gradually, the plot takes over as the a couple of the WRENS have personal crisis that define the cohesion of the group. I’ll not say more so as not to spoil this wonderful drama. You’d be hard pressed to witness a finer ensemble work where each player so deftly presents their character with enough honesty to make us want to invite them to our house for tea. I was particularly impressed with Amanda Powell and Rebecca Spence. These players sported rich area perfect British accents that ranged from Scottish to Welsh to pure English. With humor and loads of heart, WRENS unfolds as a glimpse into another almost forgotten profile and story from WWII. it is a theatrical gem – don’t miss it.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: September 14, 2012

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the WRENS page at

At Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge, Chicago, IL, call 773-334-7728,, tickets $30, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through October 13, 2012

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