Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Here's the best of what's onstage right now in Boston:
"RUINED" at the Huntington Theatre!! This 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner will tear you apart.

It's set in the middle of the Congo's civil war, where rape is a weapon and women bear the deepest scars; they are "ruined" physically and emotionally. As one character finally proclaims, "You will not fight your battles on my body anymore." Those words rang in my head, as I watched the actors in this masterful production embody the full emotional scope of this tragedy.

The play is closely observed, richly detailed with characters terrifying and tender-- "Mama" played by the extraordinary Tonye Patano, survives by running a bar/brothel and takes no sides; she serves liquor and girls to both the rebels and government soldiers, while trying to protect the desperate young women who have been forced into prostitution there. Every performance is vividly alive, and the play works itself up to a powerfully emotional, and surprisingly redemptive conclusion. DO NOT MISS "RUINED"! Through 2/6.

Now if you want to be challenged, COMPANY ONE'S excellent Boston premiere production of NEIGHBORS by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a real slap upside the head. And if you're wondering if my using that expression is racist, you're in the right neighborhood. NEIGHBORS is about the Pattersons, an interracial couple-- Richard(black),Jean (white,and their daughter Melody(mixed). Life is going along just fine until new neighbors move in: a family of minstrels by the name of Crow: Jim Crow Jr., Mammy, Sambo, Topsy, Zip Coon-- I think you get the picture. Gradually these "neighbors" infiltrate the Patterson's marriage, conversations, consciousness and attract the attention of their rebellious teen-aged daughter. When some of Jim Crow Jr.'s black face rubs off on her, mom and dad go berserk. The play cleverly explores how the same black stereotypes continue to live in our culture and tilt the conversation about race and class. As you watch, you will wonder when, or if, to laugh or clap. You will wonder if Jean saying "sometimes she forgets" her husband is black-- is racist or not. You will wonder when college professor Richard reinterprets Euripides IPHIGENIA as a play about being brought down by the rabble while courageously challenging the Man, if that is what he really means when he says "I blacked out"?

NEIGHBORS features a fabulous cast especially Johnny Lee Davenport, Valerie Stephens, and Japonica Brown, and is audaciously directed by Summer L. Williams. Prepare for graphic, in your face sexual farce and off color remarks. Prepare to be shocked, embarrassed, saddened, emboldened,and amused. Go. I dare you. Through 2/5

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