Next weekend, GableStage will open its long-awaited production of Lynn Nottage's Ruined, the final play of its 2012-2013 season. Artistic Director Joseph Adler had been wanting to stage the acclaimed play since he saw its New York debut in 2009. Adler spoke to New Times about his affection for the play, its back story, its large cast, and why it's important to not judge this book by its bleak cover.
From our conversation, here are the five best reasons to see Ruined.
5. Ruined continues to grow in relevance.
The play is set in the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, where Mama Nadi, a good-natured madam, tries to run a brothel shielded from the realities of the civil war ensuing outside her doors. The play explores the ravaging effect of war and the capitalistic greed that has led to the nearby plundering of coltan, the mineral that powers our cell phones.
Adler: "So it's about capitalism at its worst and international business raping the minds and the resources of countries like the Congo. And then tribalism ensues, literally raping the women ... and the men. There's nothing being done about it since the year the play was produced. Not one new thing has been done to try to bring this to a halt."
4. Ruined makes for the largest cast GableStage has ever assembled.
Furthermore, 11 of the 12 members in the sprawling cast of Ruined are nonwhite, making the play a showcase for the cultural diversity of the South Florida acting community. The cast includes several actors familiar to GableStage audiences, including Lela Elam and Marckenson Charles, who have both won Carbonell Awards at GableStage. Also look out for Renata Eastlick, who appeared in Intimate Apparel; Sheaun McKinney, who shined in Brothers Size; Robert Strain, of Farragut North; and Jade Wheeler, from the theater's most recent production, Race.
Adler: "I wouldn't even think about doing a play that required this many actors if I didn't think they were available to me right here in South Florida. I think they rival the cast of any production that's been done of this play anywhere."
3. Ruined is an exciting theatrical experience.
Nottage is renowned for her inventive approach to drama, and Ruined contains music and dance to supplement the story. Two musicians share the stage with the actors, and juggling all of these elements and cast members has proven to be a formidable challenge for Adler -- with just three and a half weeks of rehearsal time and one preview performance. "When you're dealing with this many people on a stage, just coming up with a floor plan that gives me the opportunity to do what I have to do is a challenge."
2. Ruined is a classic at heart.
The story of Ruined is rooted in a classic play by the brilliant German dramatist Bertolt Brecht. Nottage based her narrative in part on Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, a favorite of Adler's that also deals with wartime profiteering, written during the run-up to World War II.
Adler: "Mama Nadi does stand for Mother Courage, and how Mother Courage is managing to survive in all that war and turmoil. Other than that, it's not a question of plot or characters that mirror it. It's the idea of being able to survive."
1. In the end, Ruined is inspiring and even comic at times.
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Adler: "The one fear I have is that audiences will hear the title and hear the subject matter and think this is going to be a downbeat experience. It's not. What's interesting about the play is that in its theatricality, it's in many ways uplifting. It's about something that can still survive and even blossom in the midst of this kind of thing."
Ruined runs September 8 to October 7 at GableStage, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. For tickets and information, call 305-445-1119 or visit gablestage.org.