Nottage's Acclaimed Ruined Makes NYC Premiere Jan. 21

By Kenneth Jones
January 21, 2009

Manhattan Theatre Club unveils Lynn Nottage's new play, Ruined, set in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Jan. 21 at New York City Center Stage I.

The production, in association with Goodman Theatre in Chicago, earned praise when it bowed there in fall 2008. The world premiere co-pro again features Saidah Arrika Ekulona (Well, Fabulation) as a shrewd businesswoman who runs a canteen in a time of civil war. She can sell a cold beer, a hot meal — and the company of a woman.

Kate Whoriskey (Fabulation) repeats her directing duties for the Off-Broadway run, which features the Chicago cast. Opening is Feb. 10.

MTC bills Ruined as the "haunting, probing work about the resilience of the human spirit during times of war. Set in a small mining town in Democratic Republic of Congo, this powerful play follows Mama Nadi (Ekulona), a shrewd businesswoman in a land torn apart by civil war. But is she protecting or profiting by the women she shelters? How far will she go to survive? Can a price be placed on a human life?"

The cast features Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Cherise Boothe, Chris Chalk, William Jackson Harper, Chiké Johnson, Russell Gebert Jones, two-time Emmy Award winner Kevin Mambo ("The Guiding Light"), Tom Mardirosian, Ron McBee and Condola Rashad.

Nottage is the Obie Award-winning author of such plays as Fabulation and Intimate Apparel. The Chicago run of Ruined was extended by one week, to Dec. 14, 2008.

Ruined was developed through Nottage and director Kate 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 earlier production notes.

Playwright Nottage stated in 2008, "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."

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). Charlotte Fleck is dialect coach.

For more information visit manhattantheatreclub.com.