Friday, February 5, 2010

The good, the bad and the ruined

Just caught the open of Lynn Nottage's Ruined at Florida Studio Theatre. A light-hearted romp it's not. At the same time, it doesn't grab you by the lapels and shout a message in your face. The play inches its way along before announcing its heavy issues. It's more of a slap in the face when the truth finally comes out.

The setting seems offbeat and lighthearted at first -- Mama Nadi's whorehouse, the best little whorehouse in the Congo. Patrons check their guns, bullets and violence at the door. That’s the theory, anyway. Of course it doesn’t work out that way. The violent world outside makes its presence known. Mama's main attraction is a gifted singer. She’s been “ruined.” Readers of Nicholas Kristoff’s gut-wrenching editorials will know what that means. If you skip his editorials, I’ll spell it out.

She’s a woman who’s been raped so repeatedly (and often with foreign objects) that her insides are torn up and festering. Like the Little Mermaid, she walks in perpetual pain. But the pain is not redemptive. It’s just pain. The kind of pain we don’t want to think about.

Without slapping you in the face, this play makes you think about it. It promises you a sweet redemption—then pulls the rug out from under you. The characters in the play remain ruined. We, of course, know they’re not just characters in a play.

Like it or not, the playwright leaves the ball in the audience’s court.

Through April 3
Florida Studio Theatre
1241 North Palm Ave., Sarasota