ABOVE PHOTO: Tiffany Bacon, as Mama Nadi and Maurice A. Tucker as Christian during rehearsals.
(Photo courtesy Chestnut Hill Local by Sara Stewart)
With its production of Lynn Nottage’s “Ruined,” The Stagecrafters Theater shows that even when the fighting ends, a war is never completely over for some.
By Denise Clay
From 1998 to 2008, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was at war.
Like many wars, it was a war over stuff, in this case mineral rights. Neighbors took up arms against each other. Children and farmers were pressed into service to fight.
As for the women, they were subjected to such things as watching their children murdered before their eyes, followed closely by them being raped and sexually tortured in ways that I can’t get into in a family newspaper.
A pragmatic female bar owner trying to eek out a living in a place where being a woman is a definite liability is the center of Lynn Nottage’s play Ruined, which is being performed at The Stagecrafters Theater in Chestnut Hill. In Ruined, Mama Nadi, portrayed by Tiffany Bacon, tries to run her bar and brothel as a sort of Congolese version of Switzerland…she takes no sides and serves all.
In a moment of compassion compelled by the combination of a box of Belgian Chocolates and a sort of two-for-one sale, Mama Nadi takes in two girls who have been damaged by the war, Salima (Erin Nicole Stewart), whose husband and village rejected her after her baby was murdered right in front of her, which was followed by her rape, and Sophie (Liz Priestley), a young woman headed for University whose rape was so brutal, she can’t have children and is thus considered “ruined”.
The cast, led by Bacon, takes you through as Mama Nadi finds out that even in “Switzerland”, there’s the occasional gunfire. Trying to stay ahead of Commander Osembengo (Andre Brown) and rebel leader Jerome Kisembe (Kyle Paul Dandridge) turns out to be harder than she thought and the war comes into her “home”.
Despite the really heavy subject matter of Ruined, the cast does a masterful job. As women trying to negotiate a set of circumstances that are brutal at least and deadly at best, Bacon, Stewart, Priestley and Carlene Pochette, who plays the coquettish Josephine, are great in their roles.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known Bacon since our days as radio folks at Temple University’s WRTI-FM and while I’ve always known that she’s incredibly talented, she really impressed me here. Mama Nadi is a tough role that takes center stage in almost every scene. She doesn’t miss a beat with it.
What also impressed me, and I know that it’s might seem really small to some, is how everyone managed to make themselves believable as Congolese people, right down to the accents. Having sat through many a movie filled with botched British, French and African accents, that was among the things that make this play one to recommend.
You can see Ruined at The Stagecrafters Theater, 8130 Germantown Ave., until April 28, and I suggest strongly that you do. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and the Sunday matinee is at 2. Tickets are $17 in advance online, $20 at the door and on Thursday nights, two for $25.
To purchase tickets in advance, go to http://www.thestagecrafters.org.