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Ruined a good choice for Black History Month or anytime

Lorraine Graves   Feb-10-2018

Two of the young women with powerful histories, played by Makambe K. Simamba and Shayna Jones, pay for their safety at Mama Nadi’s with their dignity.

Photo by Jalen Saip


When Jessica Garden, one of the producers and the assistant director of the play Ruined told me what she was planning to do, I wished her well.

To raise the funds for that production, she and partner, artistic director Angela Konrad, both of Dark Glass Theatre, assembled groups of actors to offer evenings of music and stories about the impact or need for forgiveness in their lives.

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She called the fundraising evenings on the theme of forgiveness, Trespass.

I saw the performance of this touring work at Trinity Western University’s Richmond Campus. Billed as an evening of storytelling, the professionals gave the theatre-goers a moving, inspiring and sometimes humorous evening.

It worked, both as theatre and as a fundraiser.

Coupled with much community support from groups throughout the Lower Mainland meant, Ruined, began its run Feb. 2 at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver.

This is a highly professional production with a large cast of skilled actors and musicians. Set in a bar/brothel in rural Congo as civil war rages, Lynn Nottage’s play examines “What is justified when survival is on the line?”

Ruined earned Nottage the first of her two Pulitzer Prizes—a first for a women, let alone for a woman of colour. She is currently a professor at Columbia and a lecturer at Yale.

This is a well-crafted piece of theatre from the writing, the staging, the music to, in particular, the acting.

The absolute standout performance from Tom Pickett, a professional of long standing in Vancouver, set the tone for the entire evening.

Pickett is flawless as Christian, the smooth-talking, itinerant “merchant” who sells supplies of whiskey, cigarettes, condoms and prospective prostitutes to the establishment’s owner, Mama Nadi.

No one is entirely evil, and no one is entirely good in this play about the grey, the very dark grey areas of life during a brutal civil war in rural Congo.

By buying and using the “girls”, Mama Nadi saves their lives using the money they earn to feed, house and clothe them yet it is all at a profit for her. The dark grey areas abound in Ruined.

When one male characters professes love for one of the women, Mama Nadi comments, “Love is too fragile a sentiment out here.” Yet love does rise in the tumult of war, and more than once. Not all conflicts require guns. In this play, some of the deepest conflicts are internal.

The other stellar performances in this large cast are too numerous to name but trust that if you go, you will see fine theatre. You will learn about issues and geopolitics up close and very personal through the lives and eyes of the ordinary people, touched when big men argue and order young men to fight.

Ruined runs Wednesdays through Sundays, with added Saturday matinees through Feb. 17.

Pacific Theatre is on W 12th Ave at the corner of Hemlock in Vancouver.

Tickets through Pacifictheatre.org


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