Section: Arts

Wren and Kendall showcases joys, struggles in queer love

Wren and Kendall showcases joys, struggles in queer love

Kenney as Kendall, left, and Stewart as Wren | COURTESY OF DIYA CHABRIA

At 8 p.m. on Friday and Sunday, Kenyon students coming to the production of Wren and Kendall’s Guide to Escaping in the Hill Theater found themselves in a darkened escape room, waiting patiently for the on-screen timer reading “1:00:00” to start counting down. The room lit up, and the titular couple entered: Wren, a listless, neurotic writer, played by Sophia Stewart ’25, and Kendall, an animated, hopelessly romantic kindergarten teacher, played by Raya Kenney ’24. The production was staged in partial fulfillment of playwright Kate Goldberg ’24’s senior exercise in drama.

The promise of a fun, lighthearted CLUE night with a lovely couple who have contrasting personalities was soon abandoned when Wren received an email announcing that she was accepted into a prestigious fellowship program in Paris. Conflicts ensued, born from the familiar dilemma of love versus career, which the script set out to put a new spin on by removing the “gender roles dynamic that [is] often present within similar storylines,” Goldberg wrote in an email to the Collegian. The play achieved this goal —  at one point, Wren ranted in frustration, “Society and the movies want you to know that if you choose career, you’re a cold fucking soulless person,” railing against the rigid binary that female characters are often expected to fit into. It was refreshing to see such a dilemma unfold within a queer couple, as the resolution now relied upon their willingness to work out the relationship, divorced from heteronormative gendered expectations.

The eponymous characters’ dynamic was captivating to watch. As Wren and Kendall solved the clues together, pieces of evidence emerged that demonstrated why they worked as a couple and why that bond was in potential danger. The actors brought levity to the play  through intimate inside jokes that the couple had clearly told countless times  — “out of your head, begone thoughts!” Kendall affected to cast a spell cheerfully, in an attempt to assuage Wren’s overthinking. In another instance, a struggle to connect while figuring out a riddle swiftly led up to a debate that was seemingly long suppressed — “I want kids,” Wren yelped, which was immediately followed (quite humorously) by Kendall’s uncontrolled nervous laughter. After that, the conversation devolved into a heated discussion about the uncertainty of the future. “I also wanted to highlight how life isn’t always serious, and isn’t always funny. Life is complex, and I try to find humor within the serious moments,” Goldberg wrote. 

The play ended on an uncertain note, but not a hopeless one. In an attempt to get Kendall to stay, Wren abandoned all her compulsive need to have everything planned out and proposed. Although this choice might have seemed jarring at first, it turned out to be the declaration of love needed for the relationship to go on. Wren and Kendall’s future together is unclear, but it is a future that we as the audience can reasonably root for.

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