Unraveled is a heartbreaking moving story filled with an emotionally gripping intensity. Centered around the love of a Mother and Daughter it This beautiful, heavy story opens its arms to you and gives you that long-sought-after hug you didn't know you were asking for.
Written by Jennifer Blackmer
Presented by The Collaborative Artists Ensemble
The Sherry Theater 11052 Magnolia Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601
Nov. 15-Dec. 8 Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.Sundays at 7 p.m.
Tickets and Information: (323) 860-6569https://unraveled.bpt.me or www.collaborativeartistsensemble.com
Athazagoraphobia is a seldom discussed phobia, but with one most people can sympathize; the fear of forgetting or the fear of being forgotten or ignored, particularly by loved ones or those we care dearly about.
The Collaborative Artists Ensemble presents the West Coast Premiere of Jennifer Blackmer’s Unraveled. A story that revolves around Joy (Meg Wallace), an extremely bright philosophy professor, and her mother, George (Kathy Bell Denton). George who is now a shell of her former self, is dealing with the aftermath of chemotherapy-induced dementia after a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer. When caring for her mother becomes a task too large to tackle on her own, she hires a hospice nurse, the kind and gracious Anna (Heidi Shon), to assist her mother.
Throughout the play, scenes alternate between the past and present as Joy recalls her upbringing as the only child of a hardworking single mother and the deep bond forged between the two of them. Carolyn Crotty portrays the younger version of George as warm, quick-witted, and extremely kind, a mother whose goal is to ensure her daughter has the opportunities she never had. It is a stark contrast to the older George, who, more often than not, seems unsure of her present reality, tragically to the point of not even recognizing Joy. Her distress is so very palpable and gripping as she strikes out in anger at the daughter, now a stranger to her. Anyone who has had this moment occur with a family member, or close friend can relate to the utter heartbreak.
Joy is an interesting character. Vastly intelligent, she has fulfilled her mother’s dream and reached the pinnacle of achievement in her academic career, a respected leader in her field. Joy has spent her life exploring theories of space and time. Yet, she is filled with insecurities, unwilling to acknowledge her own responsibility to her mother and seemingly resentful of the fact that her mother is now the one who needs to be cared for.
The entirety of the production is engaging from the moment it begins. I found myself captivated by how real the characters felt on stage. The team makes the most out of the cozy Sherry Theatre, though often times it can feel a bit claustrophobic. I did love the attention to detail in the set design with the array of clocks adorning the walls as time plays an essential theme throughout the show.
There is a side narrative about Joy having a romantic entanglement with a grad student named Michael (Drew Lee Davis-Wheeler/Jake Jensen) who serves as her teaching aid. Their relationship helps propel the narrative and assists in demonstrating Joy’s need to grow up. I would have enjoyed seeing their relationship develop a little further. Still, I understand the focus of the story is between George and Joy.
Overall, the cast should be praised for their performances with Kathy Bell Denton deserving an extra round of applause for her simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting performance as George.
Unraveled is simply good theatre, engaging and inviting. It is a warm reminder of the power of love and the importance of never giving up on your family. At times uncomfortable, but like all good art, it shows us that while life can be ugly and messy, it is from these moments come growth and the realization of our own strengths and resilience.
I certainly recommend checking this one out.