I was talking to a friend the other day about the woeful DC Film Festival which has quietly come and gone once again - Potiche on opening night? Please! - and he commented: they didn't even have any films from Africa; there are so many great stories there. Luckily, theater in town has picked up where film (or one festival) has dropped off. Ruined, which just began a couple-month run at Arena Stage, takes you into places - geographically and of the heart - that you don't go very often. Playwright Lynn Nottage won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for this emotionally intense, lyrical and entertaining play about a brothel in the Congo during Civil War strife. She conducted numerous interviews with women there to see the toll war took on them. That she's able to dramatize this in such a realistic yet pleasing way is incredible.
The audience stood and cheered follow Sunday night's performance. Particularly brilliant in the cast are lead Jenny Jules, Rachael Holmes (who was also superb this season at Studio in "Marcus"), Jamairais Malone (from Rutgers, my alma mater!) and all the incredible musicians who add vibrancy to this amazing mix. Yes, there are scenes of pure music and joy that fit well into the evening That this play works so beautifully should be no surprise given the talent of director Charles Randolph-Wright. His Sophisticated Ladies soared at the Lincoln for Arena last year, as did his Guys and Dolls a few years before that.
(Side note: We are also very fortunate to have the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner, Clybourne Park, returning to the area this summer (Woolly Mammoth). Washington theater has certainly taken an upturn of late.)
Make your way to see Ruined.