Lynn Nottage’s Ruined. A seriously powerful and evocative play that requires top notch work by all involved. It is filled with characters that are either very sympathetic or instantly vilified. The Character of Mama Nadi, however, is a dichotomy.
Near the beginning of the play, it is easy to group Mama Nadi with the villains. She may not be running around villages raping and pillaging, but she runs a brothel. She somehow manages to have clientele from both the DRC’s army and the rebels fighting against the government. She is duplicitous to the nth degree, performing what could almost be called war profiteering. However, her resilience and business savvy nature are to be admired.
She starts to soften when she meets Sophie, a young girl who has been brutally raped to the point where childbirth is no longer possible. Mama Nadi, not unlike the audience, feels extreme sympathy for her because she, too, has been “ruined”.
She eventually gives up her greatest personal treasure, a raw diamond, to Sophie and a Lebanese merchant so they can sell it and escape the war (which is drawing ever closer). Note that she is doing just fine without having sold the diamond herself (although it’s a hell of a nest egg) and her business will likely survive, so she’s not exactly making the grandest sacrifice in the world, but it is still motivated by love and care. Thus, Mama Nadi is a contradiction of herself just like all humans. And that’s what characters are supposed to be. Human. Imagine that.
Nottage, Lynn. Ruined: [a Play]. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2009. Print.