Invictus Theatre Company in Chicago presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning production of Ruined, written by Lynn Nottage. The show runs from February 21, 2022, thru March 20, 2022, at the Reginald Vaughn Theatre located at 1106 W. Thorndale Avenue in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood.
In this heart-wrenching drama, Ruined, we learn how one woman (Mama Nadi), portrayed by TeKeisha Yelton-Hunter, survives during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where women are being abducted from their homes, abused, and used as sex objects. She uses the ordeal of these women as a means to make a profit while at the same time rescuing them from the torment in which they escaped. Despite the danger and chaos all around, those who enter can forget what is happening on the other side of Mama Nadi’s doors.
One day, Christian (Stanley King), a charismatic salesman, arrives with cargo that he pleads with Mama Nadi to consider. Although reluctant, she agrees to take in two additions to her brothel. Salima (Courtney Gardner) and Sophie (Jenise Sheppard) are survivors of horrific acts committed against them, and their psychological scars run more profound than one’s mind can fathom. Sophie, considered a beauty, cannot fulfill the sexual obligations required, but she’s smart. Mama Nadi uses her ability to read and count to help run her business. Although Salima is plain, she steps in as Sophie’s protector, shielding her from the constant harassment of the soldiers.
Set/props designer, Kevin Rolfs, does a great job utilizing the limited amount of space to create Mama Nadi’s brothel. Director, Ebby Offord, does a great job of timing the emotional gravity of the story line. The comedic moments are placed at the right moments to lighten the mood of the already depressing subject matter. At times, I found myself a bit distracted by the ensemble members during the dialogue between the main characters because there was a lot of movement around them. The choreographing and singing were lackluster but still entertaining.
There is excellent chemistry amongst the cast. The actors’ energy and commitment to their characters were notable, especially those of Tekeisha Yelton-Hunter (Mama Nadi), Stanley King (Christian), Courtney Gardner (Salima), and ensemble member Kejuan Darby.
The theatre is small, but it doesn’t feel overly cramped. Due to the lack of space, it made it difficult for social distancing. Masks are required during the duration of the production. Vaccination statuses and IDs are checked before attendees enter the building.
Overall, Ruined was a good production. I was relieved that it ended on a happy note. I recommend the show for a date night, but not for children under sixteen. The money supports the City of Joy, an organization that provides aid to victims of violence in the Congo.
The performance schedule for Ruined through March 20, 2022, is: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7 p.m, and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $30 ($25 for seniors and students). $1 handling fee for online or credit card purchases. For tickets visit: www.invictustheatreco.com