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Ruined: Theater Review 

Wednesday, Mar 23 2011

According to Berkeley's Rep's press release, Lynn Nottage's play is an "intense and important tale" about "important issues," and "you'd better listen." The script won a Pulitzer, a Drama Desk Award, an Obie, and a dozen other honors. It's about something devastating, sobering, and true — the systematic and brutal rape of women in the Congo. But, just because it's about an important subject doesn't make it great theater. The set, by Clint Ramos, is beautiful: a colorful, ramshackle brothel tucked away like an oasis amid a brutal civil war. The portrayals of the women seeking food, shelter, and work (prostitution) and the volatile soldiers seeking booze, comfort, and womanly entertainment feel grounded and authentic. And, the live music, performed by Broken Chord (Daniel Baker and Aaron Meicht), brings a welcome lightheartedness to the menacing mood. These positive elements don't make up for an overall feeling of disconnection. Liesl Tommy's direction feels more presentational and heavy-handed than personal and heartfelt, as if it's saying, "You need to care and feel about this" when it ultimately fails to deliver as emotionally connected theater.

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Nathaniel Eaton

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