Skip to main content

Review: Nightwood/Obsidian Production of Lynn Nottage's Ruined in Toronto

Review: Ruined, by Lynn Nottage & directed by Philip Akin
Presented by Obsidian Theatre Company in association with
Nightwood Theatre 

Continues to February 12, 2011 at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs

"You are very pretty - I can see how that would cause you problems." So says Mama Nadi (Yanna McIntosh) to Sophie (Sabryn Rock), one of her new charges at the brothel she keeps in the Congo bush. When we hear about the Congo (the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire,) here in North America it's in the form of horrific headlines about faceless atrocities. Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize winning play brings those headlines down to earth and gives them a face that feels entirely authentic in this powerful production.

A simple set conveys the cobbled together walls and corrugated tin roof of Mama's oasis of sex and booze in the middle of violent chaos. The women ply their trade in the midst of everyday brutality, catering to a stream of miners, government soldiers and the rebel forces they battle against with equal hospitality. "People come here to leave behind whatever mess they made out there," Mama says, and she walks a tightrope to see that it stays that way. "If you don't step on the dog's tail, it won't bite you."

The girls come to her via Christian (Sterling Jarvis), her supplier and the would-be lover she keeps at bay with a flinty sense of humour and uncompromising banter. Sophia comes with Salima (Sophia Walker), a young married woman who was abducted by soldiers and forced to be their maidservant and concubine for five months. She returned home only to find her husband cursing her and chasing her from their home because she had "dishonoured" them - she must have done something to provoke the abuse. She tries to adapt to life at Mama's, even though the clientele can only reinforce the pain. "Sometimes their hands are so full of rage, it hurts to be touched," she says.

Young Sophia has an even more tragic tale. She is "ruined" - what they call it when someone has been abused to the point where her sexual organs are permanently damaged. She was raped with a bayonet and left for dead, and also abandoned by her family. She can't work as a prostitute, and so sings in the bar and does bookkeeping, keeping the other girls entertained by reading from romance novels.

The peripheral details are equally as stark - child soldiers who rob you at the point of a kalishnikov on the way in, and a country that wallows in abject poverty at the same time it is veined with diamonds and gold. But yet there are moments of humour, and Mama's brand of hardboiled feminist empowerment may come as a real eye opener. Prostitution is, perhaps above all, a business of pragmatic souls.

There are several other characters who weave in and out of the central story of Mama and her girls, which include Josephine (Marci T. House), the hardened hooker who becomes a friend to Sophia. They try for business as usual in a world where allegiances shift constantly and the stark violence of the outside constantly threatens to spill in. The play really effectively conveys the torn fabric of a society, and the people simply trying to survive another day.

With these characters and this subject matter, the piece could easily sink under the weight of its own sense of tragedy. I credit the gifted insight of playwright Lynn Nottage (pictured) and the research she did with war survivors in Congo itself for investing the play with real people who elevate the dark material above the sum of its parts, along with a strong cast and production that was able to do the work justice.

In a way that's as hardheaded and as unsentimental as the character of Mama herself, Ruined delivers a theme about the irrepressible resilience of the human spirit.

Last night, the opening night house looked full and rose immediately to its feet for a standing ovation. See it if you can! 

RUINED 
Written by Lynn Nottage
Directed by Philip Akin
Starring Yanna McIntosh and Sterling Jarvis with Richard Alan Campbell, Marci T House, Daniso Ndhlovu, Muoi Nene, Thomas Olajide, Anthony Palmer,
Sabryn Rock, Marc Senior, Andre Sills, Sophia Walker
Set Design by Gillian Gallow, Lighting Design by Rebecca Picherak
Costume Design by Nadine Grant Sound Design by Chris Stanton
Stage Manager: Michael Sinclair

The Details:
DATES: January 16 to February 12, 2011

SHOW TIMES: Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday 12:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs, 26 Berkeley Street, Tickets are available by calling (416) 368.3110 or www.canadianstage.com
SINGLE TICKETS: On Sale NOW Prices range from $15-$35
INFORMATION: www.obsidian-theatre.com or www.nightwoodtheatre.net

Comments

What Else Is Hot This Week?

FACTORY presents World Premiere ACTS OF FAITH November 19 to 28 2020 - Free Livestream

 From a media release: World Premiere FACTORY presents  ACTS OF FAITH by David Yee Directed by Nina Lee Aquino Starring Natasha Mumba November 19 – 28, 2020 @ 7:30PM Streamed live for 6 performances Free of charge TORONTO (October 19, 2020) - To kick off its groundbreaking 2020/21 season, Factory presents the world premiere of acts of faith, by multi-award winning Asian Canadian playwright David Yee, directed by Nina Lee Aquino, and starring Natasha Mumba. Written specifically to be performed for a digital platform, acts of faith will stream live to audiences at home for six performances, November 19-28, 2020.  Thanks to the generous support of the TD Bank Group, admission is being offered entirely free of charge to audiences across the country and beyond. acts of faith tells a story about the power of faith, the inescapable persistence of our online identities, and the nature of truth in a digital age. The story follows Faith, a young woman who gets mistaken for a prophet. When a ques

Jewellery With A Conscience: Kind Karma

Jewellery With A Conscience: Kind Karma Check Out The Collection Kind Karma blends timeless jewellery with a social conscience. Founded in Toronto in 2017, the company makes classic jewellery pieces using a unique business model - the artisans who produce the handmade pieces are at-risk and homeless youth.  "I always wanted to be an entrepreneur," explains founder Laurinda Lee-Retter. "I wanted to give back." She combined her passions in Kind Karma. Laurinda serves as designer for the jewellery line, with pieces that are classic and minimalist, and that can be worn with anything. "I made jewellery as a hobby when I was young," she says.  The jewellery is then crafted by hand by the young artisans from sterling silver or gold fill, a durable construction that uses multiple layers of real gold over jeweller's brass. The result is much more resilient than gold plate. All the pieces are hypoallergenic, won't tarnish, and are designed to last for years

Fashionable Fabrics For A Cause: Vlisco Raises Over $500K For DRC's City Of Joy

From a media release: Vlisco Raises Over $500K To Help Female Survivors Of Violence In The DRC The donation will fund the building of a creative and textiles school in the City of Joy  Vlisco to relaunch collection targeting $1M in donations For more information or to buy click here November 2020 – Dutch wax textile fabric company, Vlisco, is donating a total of $512,000 (USD) to fund a new fashion school and production workshop in the City of Joy, a women’s transformational sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The announcement marks one year since the company launched a special collection honouring the “world’s strongest women,” symbolising their recovery from rape and trauma, and their journey from pain to power. City of Joy collection by Oritsegbubemi Ogisi - Photo by Atong Atem for Vlisco The original collection was showcased to a global audience by the women of the City of Joy at a gala event in Kinshasa on November 25th 2019. Five female, African fashion designers

Travel By The Glass: Seven Cocktails From Around The World

Travel By The Glass: Seven Cocktails From Around The World W e may not be able to travel, listen to live music or eat in restaurants, but we can always drink. Here's a look at some famous cocktails, and the stories surrounding their origins from all over the world. The Bloody Caesar (Calgary, Alberta Canada) The story goes that back in 1969, the Calgary Inn asked bartender Walter Chell to create a new cocktail to celebrate the opening of a new restaurant inside the hotel. Taking his inspiration from the restaurant's Italian cuisine, it took him fully three months to ocme up with the Caesar - as inspired by spaghetti alla vongole, which is essentially pasta with clam sauce.  Chell crushed clams for their juices, mixing it with tomato juice and spices. The classic version includes clam nectar - nowadays more often substituted by Clamato juice - Worcestershire sauce and celery salt. In an interview, Chell said he also added a dash of oregano. Image by Alexas_Fotos (Pixabay)  The M

Electric RnB: Tropic Return With New Single 'Down'

From a media release: Tropic Return With New Single "Down" “Down” is available to buy/stream now on all platforms R ising Brooklyn-based duo Tropic have made an impressive return with new single “Down”. Tropic, which is formed of electronic producer/DJ Phuse and R&B singer-songwriter Jo-B Sebastian, once again showcase the stunning lyricism and sensual vocals that have garnered support from industry tastemakers and helped them amass millions of streams across Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and more since their 2018 debut. Blending R&B textures, electronic landscapes, pop hooks and funk rhythms courtesy of Phuse's slick, luscious production and Jo-B's poetic lyrics and irresistible melodies, "Down" looks set to be another hit to add to the duo’s striking collection. It follows previous 2020 releases "Lights Out (Redux)", "Always Be My Baby", "Secret" and "Paradise". Speaking on “Down”, Tropic explained, "‘Do