|Sophie reads a romance to Salima and Josie in their room|
Ruined, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, is being produced by the Philadelphia Theatre Company at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre located at Broad and Lombard Streets through June 12, 2011. Set in a small Congo village in an establishment run by Mama Nadi, Ruined gives a peek at the life of women in a country torn apart by the strife of civil war. Heather Alicia Simms brilliantly portrays Mama as she staunchly protects her girls, keeps peace between warring factions by insisting ammunition be checked at the door before the soldiers can be served, and sings to the beats of the African drums. Although Mama is a “tough cookie,” Christian, endearingly played by Oberon K.A Adepong, provides a perfect foil.
Ruined has been written with precision by Lynn Nottage It is the back-story that tells the true stories of the characters as the play unfolds. Any question the audience might have at the end of the first act is answered by the end of the second. Erika Rose’s portrayal of Salima, one of Mama Nadi’s newest acquired girls, is heart-wrenching. Chandra Thomas, in her role as Josie, the more experienced girl at Mama’s, gets an opportunity to display her outstanding athleticism and excellent dancing ability as she slithers in front of the patrons and across the stage. Keona Welch does an excellent job of portraying Sophie, the pretty girl who is ruined but reluctantly accepted by Mama because she can sing.... and does she ever sing those African melodies! The all star ensemble cast is rounded out by U.R., playing Jerome Kisembe; Paul Meahejian, playing Mr. Harari; Jamil Mangan, portraying Commander Osembenga, James Ijames, as Fortune; Sean-Michael Bowles and Khris Davis as soldiers and Jordan McCree playing the drums. It is not difficult to see why several of these actors have had Barrymore nominations as well as other acting awards. Many also have Broadway, off-Broadway, TV and movie appearances to their credits.
Kudos must be given to costume designer Janus Stefanowicz for Mama’s colorful garments and to set designer Antje Ellermann, for the ingenious way not only of devising a set on a turntable so that costumes changes could be made behind while acting continues in another room, but also having three scenes at once- the inside of Mama’s establishment, outside her side porch, and in front of Mama’s place.
There are many categories that have great potential for Barrymore nominations in this wonderful production. For further information or tickets call 215-735-7356 or visit online at PhiladelphiaTheatreCompany.org.