Ruined, Nottage's Snapshot of Women in African Civil War, Begins Chicago Run Nov. 8

News   Ruined, Nottage's Snapshot of Women in African Civil War, Begins Chicago Run Nov. 8 The civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the setting for Lynn Nottage's new drama, Ruined, having its world premiere Nov. 8 at the Goodman Theatre's Owen space in Chicago.
Lynn Nottage
Lynn Nottage Photo by Joan Marcus

Saidah Arrika Ekulona, a veteran of Nottage's Fabulation and Broadway's Well, plays Mama Nadi, "the owner of a canteen who serves up everything from a cold beer and a warm meal — to the company of a woman."

According to Goodman notes, "Through the eyes of this savvy businesswoman who both protects and profits from the women whose bodies have become battlegrounds, Nottage captures the constantly shifting allegiances and tragic absurdity that marks the civil war in the DRC. Ruined, rendered with Nottage's trademark humanity, clarity and surprising humor, gives a glimpse of a country that has suffered immeasurable losses since the beginning of this war that has raged for more than a decade."

This is a co-production between Goodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club. The Chicago run precedes a 2009 New York City engagement. Casting for the MTC run is still being determined. (Tony Award winner Adriane Lenox, a veteran of Doubt and Kiss Me, Kate, withdrew from the production "due to unexpected personal reasons.")

Kate Whoriskey directs the play, commissioned by Goodman, where it was first seen in a reading as part of the 2007 New Stages Series.

The cast of Ruined is completed by Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Salima), Cherise Boothe (Josephine), Ali Amin Carter (Soldier #2), Chris Chalk (Jerome Kisembe), William Jackson Harper (Simon), Chiké Johnson (Fortune), Russell G. Jones (Christian), Simon Kashama (Soldier #1), Kevin Mambo (Commander Osembenga), Tom Mardirosian (Mr. Harari) and Condola Phyleia Rashad (Sophie). Ruined was developed through Nottage and Whoriskey's pilgrimage to Uganda, "where countless interviews and interactions resulted in a portrait of the lives of the women and girls caught in the devastating armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)," according to production notes.

Ruined opens at Goodman's Owen Theatre Nov. 17 (after previews) and runs through Dec. 7. It begins performances at Manhattan Theatre Club on Jan. 21, 2009.

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The playwright stated, "I sought to sustain the complexity of the modern DRC, a country that's been ravaged by a brutal war, and where the unspeakable has become commonplace. The challenge in writing the play was to find optimism where there is seemingly none, to mine the ugliness for seeds of beauty. The DRC is a place where hope and disillusionment do a fragile dance. It is in this tension of opposites that my play exists."

Nottage, whose work was most recently seen at the Goodman during the 2005-06 season with Crumbs from the Table of Joy, is the author of the acclaimed Intimate Apparel, which was produced in New York at Roundabout Theatre Company after its world-premiere production at Center Stage and South Coast Repertory and received numerous awards, including the 2004 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play, the Outer Critics Circle Best Play award, the John Gassner Award, the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg 2004 New Play Award and the 2004 Francesca Primus Award. Her next play, Fabulation, or the Education of Undine, was first produced by Playwrights Horizons and received a highly acclaimed production at the Tricycle Theatre in London. Both plays are published in an anthology by Theatre Communications Group (TCG). Another anthology of her plays, "Crumbs From the Table of Joy and Other Plays" was published by TCG, and includes Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por'Knockers and Poof!

Nottage wrote the feature film "Side Streets" (Merchant Ivory Productions), directed by Tony Gerber. The film was an official selection at the Venice and Sundance Film Festivals. Currently, she is writing an adaptation of Edwige Danticat's novel "The Dew Breaker" for HBO Films.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious 2004 PEN/Laura Pels Award for literary excellence and the 2005 Guggenheim grant for playwriting, as well as fellowships from Manhattan Theatre Club, New Dramatists and the New York Foundation for the Arts, where she is a member of the Artists Advisory Board. Nottage is an alumna of New Dramatists, a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" Award and a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama, where she is currently a visiting lecturer.

Whoriskey's Goodman Theatre credits include Vigils, Heartbreak House, The Rose Tattoo and Drowning Crow. Her Off-Broadway credits include The Piano Teacher by Julia Cho at Vineyard Theatre, The Last Tree in Antarctica by Julie Cho at Ensemble Studio Theatre, the world premiere of Fabulation by Lynn Nottage at Playwrights Horizons and Massacre by José Rivera at LAByrinth Theater Company, of which she is a member.

The creative team for Ruined includes Derek McLane (set), Paul Tazewell (costumes), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting), Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen (sound), Dominic Kanza (original music), and Randy Duncan (movement director).

For more information visit GoodmanTheatre.org.

Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Cherise Boothe (back) and Quincy Tyler Bernstine in rehearsal for <i>Ruined</i>
Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Cherise Boothe (back) and Quincy Tyler Bernstine in rehearsal for Ruined Photo by Joan Marcus