The Los Medanos College Drama Department put on a spectacularly intense performance of Lynn Nottage’s play “Ruined” last night at the California Theater in downtown Pittsburg. Everything from the set to the costumes was awe-inspiring as the drama department really outdid itself. It was obvious that a lot of hard work went into this production from both those on stage and those behind the scenes.
This effort was emphasized during an event previewing the play called “Getting Ready for Ruined” hosted by LMC instructor Josh Bearden and Honors Director Jennifer Saito. They gave background information on the play by providing an historical timeline of conflict in the Congo. The lesson was followed by some of the main cast reading scenes from the play to give the audience of taste of what they were going to see the following night and the actors certainly lived up to expectations.
There were a few hiccups. There seemed to be minor issues with sound cues and though the actors who spoke in Congolese accents were consistent, it was a little unclear as to whether or not all the characters were supposed to have one or not given the setting. However, none of these things were noticeable enough to stifle the production. Every emotion the actors portrayed, resonated with the audience. There was boisterous laughter during the more humor tinged scenes and gasping and sniffling during the more dramatic scenes.
It’s difficult to say who the star of the play was because each actor brought something interesting to the stage. Dee White’s portrayal of Mama Nadi invoked thoughts about the nature of human beings; are people warped by circumstance? If so, can they be healed?
And I found myself becoming the most emotional during scenes featuring Arionna White, who executed the perfect amount of intensity while portraying Salima, which isn’t surprising since she exhibited similar skill when she was in LMC’s production of “Fences.”
Alante Blackmon brought her character Josephine to life by showing that she can be equal parts funny and serious. Though I haven’t gotten the chance to see Elysse Green in other productions, she expertly portrayed the lovable, romantic Sophie. Even the actors who didn’t have as big of a role such as Shatori Hines who played Mazima, did a great job of conveying their parts through facial expressions and gesticulations.
Those who played the soldiers were extremely versatile and helped with the comic relief after the more emotional scenes.
The entire cast made me believe they had really gone through the sorrows and triumphs of the characters they portrayed. After the play was over, there was a Q and A from members of a Contra Costa County crisis organization that specializes in dealing with rape and sex trafficking. The speakers of the organization thanked the actors multiple times for conveying the feeling associated with such topics so accurately.
Go see “Ruined,” playing at 351 Railroad Ave. Dec. 2-5 at 7 p.m. For more information, call the theater’s box office at 427-1611.