RUN TO SEE RUINED

by Tracy Shaffer

Though the subject of Lynn Nottage's play Ruined might seem like a reason to stay away, the latest offering by Denver Center Theatre Company puts my recommendation in the 'run-don't-walk' category. I attended last night's first preview, so this is not an official review (nor am I a critic), but the powerful production deserves to be seen so I thrust myself out on a limb here to give you time to plan your evening.

Set in a cheery brothel in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, themes of violence, rape, genocide and the demoralizing exploitation of women, are balanced with a shocking levity that is testament to the human spirit.The entire cast is in fine form, led by the powerful performances of Kim Staunton and Harvey Blanks. There is an unmatched intimacy and ease between these two, having appeared together in Raisin in the Sun, Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean, The Madwoman to name a few. Tallia Brinson, Joy Jones and Daphne Gaines are exquisite as the women of the brothel whose stories lend the script its brutal core, while the band of soldiers are brutish and violent, the actors have miraculously managed to make them… well, charming would be going too far.

Michael Ganio's set design, Jane Spencer's lighting  and David Michaelson's costumes magically create a vivid world that lets us inside a place we prefer to keep at a distance. The African music, performed live on stage, and dance bring moments of joy into an unimaginably horrific circumstance. Director, Seret Scott, has served this magnificent script brilliantly, bringing all its layers and texture out with a genius' hand. Riveting, heartbreaking, important and ultimately triumphant, it is everything you'd expect from a Pulitzer Prize winning play. This one's worth the drive to Denver, and while you're in town you might want to snag some tickets to the amazing TRACES at the Denver Center as well.

Ruined runs March 18-April 30, Ricketson Theatre at the Denver Center Theatre Company. Tickets available at www.denvercenter.org or by calling the box office at 303-893-4100.

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