Ruined is the title that Lynn Nottage has given to her play about such a war. She sets it in bar in a small mining town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The bar doubles as a brothel. The miners come there for liquor, music, talk, and other comforts. So do soldiers, both government and rebel.
Mama Nadi owns the bar. In it, her word is law, a fact made abundantly clear in the commanding figure of Andrea Frye. She is, in a way, as much a protector of her girls as their exploiter. They are safer in Mama's than they would be in the countryside, where they have already suffered rape and worse.
One of them, Sophie, is indeed ruined, so horribly so that she cannot function sexually in the brothel. Fortunately, she, in the person of Evann Jones, has a lovely voice and entertains the customers, singing with the bar's combo, James Belk on percussion and Dennis Brock on guitar. Jones's is a sweet, poignant, and fierce performance.
McClain plays Josephine, the senior girl in Mama's stable. Her eager exuberance with the customers could make you think she enjoys her life, until you catch her private moments.
In a shattering monologue, Sharisa Whatley details the sufferings of Salima, a happy young wife and mother, captured, raped, held as a slave, finally returned to her village to be rejected by her husband and her community. It's another memorable performance by Whatley.
Yet that husband, now in the army, comes looking for her. He's played by Chauncy Thomas with regret, tenderness and love. This thread of the story moves us beyond a mere recounting of war's general horrors into a deeper exploration of the profound pain they bring to very real individuals. I wish Ruined did more of that.
Playwright Nottage gives us a ray of hope in the evolving relationship between Mama Nadi and the man who sells her the bar's supplies. He's played by J. Samuel Davis, and he and Frye, survivors so far, negotiate their way to perhaps a happy ending.
Joe Hanrahan plays another survivor, a white diamond merchant. Ryan Cunningham, Phillip Dixon, Erik Kilpatrick, Kelvin Roston, Jr., and Theo Wilson are, variously, miners and soldiers. Under Ron Himes' direction, they make up a powerful ensemble. Regina Garcia's set, Kathy Perkins' lights, Daryl Harris's costumes, and Robin Weatherall's sound design envelop the action in a convincing environment.
Ruined is a painful human document, presented with heart and conviction.