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

Popular posts from this blog

Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company Spring 2013 Toronto Performances

From a media release:

The new season brings
Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company
to new heights and new audiences

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
April 25-28, 2013 - Annual Toronto Season - World Premiere of Portales

TORONTO : Following on the heels of Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company's (EESDC) 30th anniversary year where its production Aguas/Waters was named one of the top five dance shows of 2012 by NOW Magazine, the early months of 2013 are full of excitement and possibility for Esmeralda and the company, which brings the finest flamenco and Spanish Classical Dance to Toronto stages.

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
Company dancers Esmeralda Enrique and Paloma Cortés perform Spanish Classical dance with the celebrated Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir for A Night in Madrid featuring the Iberian flavoured music of composer Luigi Boccherini who made his home in Spain. His work is infused with the sounds of Spanish and gypsy folk music.

March 20-24 …

NU MUSES 2017 Luxurious Fine Art Nude Calendar Now Available

From a media release:

NU MUSES 2017 Luxurious Fine Art Nude Calendar Now Available
24 Fine Art Prints from Celebrated Photographer David Bellemere Available In Three Limited Edition NU MUSES 2017 Calendar Packages

“What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment” -Michelangelo

Buy the collections
Check them out at Art Basel, Miami - December 1-4, 2016

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – November 22nd, 2016 – NU MUSES, the luxurious 2017 fine art nude calendar, is now available to purchase in three unique limited edition collectors packages. Drawing inspiration from the Pirelli calendar of the 1970s, NU MUSES is set to celebrate the forgotten art of the classic nude and capture the elegance and romance of the female form.


The NU MUSES limited edition art piece is a sublime collectable calendar, featuring nude photographs of 12 of the world’s most stunning models, captured by famed photographer David…

Guitar Rock | Happy Freuds - Echo Of Sounds Independent: May 31, 2019

Guitar Rock
Happy Freuds - Echo Of Sounds
Independent: May 31, 2019
Stream/Buy on Bandcamp
Stream it on Spotify

With tight musicians and intriguing lyrics, Happy Freuds delivers high energy guitar rock with stylistic flair on Echo Of Sounds, their debut release. Produced with a minimum of overdubs or fixes, the album consists of a mix of original material, rearrangements of works from others and selected, less known, classic rock.

A kinetic rhythm section is the bones of the music, offering interesting patterns that augment sometimes unexpected harmonic changes. It's brainy rock, in other words, meant for music lovers who can appreciate the quality. Teo's vocals are raspy and expressive, growly when necessary - perfect for the musical mode. Teo also covers lead guitar, adapt at ear worm leads, with a tone that can be clean or dirty as required

Their sound ranges from straight up hard rock in tracks like The Mountain to the pop-flavoured acoustic Background Noise and folky To …