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Ruined by Lynn Nottage No matter what culture, every woman understands what it means. The word ‘ruined’ when associated with the sexual identity of a woman evokes the tears of sisterhood as every woman, the girl within her, knows what it means to be ruined. Lynn Nottage has written a play that explores the nature of being ‘ruined’ as female casualties of war express the consequences that come from being physically vulnerable to soldiers, men whose minds are on violence and who see the enemy through the control that they can have over everyone in their path. On April 28, 2011, the performance of the play at the Denver Center through the Denver Center Theater Company provided a glimpse into the world of women who live with the consequences of terror and control as it is asserted through sexual violation. What must first be said about the production is that it is a bit confusing where the roles of the soldiers are concerned. The same people seem to be playing roles that are defined by wardrobe changes, but have no other real distinction. Maybe this is done to show that neither side has the monopoly on what is right and what is wrong, but if the is the case it does not seem to be clearly communicated. Other than this detail, the production is engaging, bringing the audience into the world of the women who are the focus of the play. The play presents a social dilemma, a revealing look at the way in which the anger and antagonism of war affects those who are the collateral damage of conflict. The performances are riveting and the production adequately shifts the viewer from this world into the world of the play. The role of Mama Nadi is played by Kim Staunton who provides an extremely believable portrayal of the Madame of the brothel. Her representation of the political side to the play, the mediation between each side of the conflict through her business, is compelling and fascinating to watch. In watching her work one loses the idea of looking at her as an actress playing a role, but begins to examine what her position in her world means. The actress disappears and what is left is the emotional situation of her character, which is what an audience wants most from the actors in a play – to not feel as if they are actors, but as if they are the characters enacting their world in front of their eyes. Some of the other work in the play is not quite as successful. This seems to be because of some problems with the way in which the actors present their characters, thus some of the play seems to be unclear and moments are dampened without the emotions that one expects considering the content. The play is highly charged, but every once in a while it does not come through the presentations that are made by the actors. While they are working hard, Josephine, Sophie, and Salima, played by Joy Jones, Tallia Brinson, and Daphne Gaines, sometimes falls short of creating what seems to be intended in some of the scenes. However, the play is powerful and while these shortcomings are sometimes obvious, for the most part it changes very little in the work. The topic of the play is so intense that it is hard to watch it with a critical eye. The story is so engaging, that some of the craft of the play becomes lost in the emotions of processing the information that is coming from the story. The idea of how a woman sees herself once she has been hurt through the effects of control that is placed over her by soldiers who are using her to express their aggression becomes the conversation. The feelings that are revealed are so overwhelming that to critique the play for its value as a play becomes difficult. This means, of course, that the play is successful in getting across the message that it intends. When the audience is no longer watching the production of a play, but is lost in the world that is being created, the play has succeeded in giving over the message that is intended by all of the elements that come together to create the performance. When the performance is no longer the center and the message is firmly in place, the writer, the actors, and the all of the crew have succeeded in creating a meaningful work. This is what happened during the performance at the Denver Center on April 28th, 2011. The play provided a message about the theme, a communication that stirred the emotions of the viewers in such a way that in leaving the theater, they were transformed. The performance was less enjoyable and more informative. The topic is hard to discuss through the idea of it being enjoyable, although the play has many moments that are fun to watch, providing a great experience in watching the play. The entertainment value of the play is in its meaning, in the way in which it touches the audience and brings to light important concepts of gender, sexuality, and violence. Most importantly, it discusses the nature of how one sees themselves after being victimized. While one thinks they understand this, seeing this play gives a broader meaning to what being a victim of terrible events can mean. The women are brave to live, simply to live after such things have happened. To find a way to not see themselves as ruined is impossible, miraculous, and devastatingly beautiful. The play provides a range of outcomes to the horrors of victimization, and this production gives a solid performance of these themes.