Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: New Jersey

The Unfortunates Focuses on Victims of Jack the Ripper

Also see Bob's review of I Do! I Do! and The Last Five Years

Diana Cherkas
The Centenary Stage Company is presenting the world premiere of The Unfortunates by Australian playwright Aoise Stratford. This play is the winner of the 2010 Susan Glaspell Award competition for Women Playwrights which provided the author with the Equity production now on stage and a cash award. The prolific Stratford, who is working on her PhD and teaches Dramatic Writing at Cornell, has won a startling number of awards throughout the United States and worldwide.

The setting is The Ten Bells Public House in Whitechapel, the inner city section of a London borough best known to this day as the site of the Jack the Ripper murders. It is a foggy evening in November 1888. Seeking shelter, a prostitute, Mary Jane Kelly, enters the bar as the 95-minute, one-act monodrama begins. It is a quiet night and the bartender is in an adjoining room where the few others are engrossed in a game of cards. Mary observes an unseen well dressed man sitting in a shadowed corner of the otherwise empty bar room. Mary addresses the man. She has entered The Ten Bells to seek shelter from the dark, foggy and dank night, and the vigilantes and police on every corner. In the course of the next hour and a half, Mary's nervous ramblings will inform us of her background, circumstances, and profession as well as of that of several of her colleagues who have been murdered by Ripper as Stratford pursues her aim of exploring a range of their histories and circumstances in order to restore their humanity in a world which only remembers them because of its fascination with the Ripper.

Mary also periodically offers her services to the quiet, unseen man, at times lets slip a lurking fear that her companion could be the Ripper, and provides vivid cutting details about the Ripper's crimes.

The Unfortunates is a force de force for the talented Diana Cherkas. In addition to playing Mary, Cherkas gives full vocal and physical imitations of almost a dozen others including several prostitutes (mostly Ripper victims), other lower class ladies, a couple of pimping boyfriend exploiters, a customer, a couple of policemen and a coroner.

Judith Stevens-Ly directs on a particularly well designed and interesting set designed by Evan Hill

The Unfortunates continues performances (Evenings: Thursday 7:30 pm /Friday and Saturday 8 pm / Matinees: Wednesday and Sunday 2 pm) through April 29, 2012 at the Edith Bolte Kutz Theatre (Black Box) at the Lackland Center on the campus of Centenary College, 715 Grand Avenue, Hackettstown, New Jersey 07840. Box Office: 908-9794297; online:

The Unfortunates by Aoise Stratford: directed by Judith Stevens-Ly

Mary Jane Kelly……………Diana Cherkas

Be sure to Check the current schedule for theatre in New Jersey

- Bob Rendell

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