Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Unfinished Women Cry in No Man's Land While a Bird Dies in a Gilded Cage
Unfinished Women juxtaposes two narratives that appear completely distinct except for the fact that they are happening at the exact same time. At the Hide-A-Wee Home for Unwed Mothers, single, young pregnant women are hiding from the world until after they have given birth. The women hail from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances, but now they must all choose to keep their babies or give them up for adoption. In the dark and lush bedroom of his longtime mistress, jazz saxophone legend Charlie "Bird" Parker spends his last days in a fog of liquor, drugs, and bitter memories. A mysterious narrator presides over both scenes, while the sound of a jazz quartet soothes the characters and audience alike.
Ozzie Jones gives an excruciatingly raw performance as Charlie "Bird" Parker. The audience cannot help but feel the tragedy of Bird's limitless potential and undeniable genius slipping away into darkness. Bird's lover Pasha is played with dark sensitivity by Jenna McLaughlin. McLaughlin also plays Midge, one of the young women at the Hide-A-Wee home. Her transitions between roles are cleverly executed. Jalynn Brunson and J'Lynn Henry give powerful and haunting performances as Wilma and Mattie, two residents struggling with the terrible decision before them.
Music, meter and rhythm flow seamlessly into themes of lost potential, silenced voices, and anguish in Michele's intimate production. It is remarkable to see an ordinary home become a sacred space where musicians, actors and audience can share this remarkable story.
Unfinished Women Cry in No Man's Land While a Bird Dies in a Gilded Cage runs through March 12, 2023, at Camden Repertory Theater, 445 Mechanic St. Camden NJ. For tickets and information, please visit www.camdenrep.com.