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Pulitzer #2, Please!

By Suzy Evans in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 23, 2009 6:30PM


Chicago theater has done it again. After the international success of Tracy Lett’s Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County, Lynn Nottage won the 2009 Pulitzer for her play Ruined, which premiered at the Goodman Theatre last fall. We don’t like to brag, but two Pulitzers in two years is a pretty good record.

Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the play forces audiences to confront the region’s realities of sexual violence, not just rape but also violent mutilation resulting in death and sterility. It's not exactly a comedy. Nottage drew some inspiration from Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage for the character Mama Nadi, a bar and brothel proprietor in the Congo rainforest. Mama Nadi takes young ruined women into her “establishment,” but how far will she go to protect these women when her own interests are at stake?

When the show premiered at the Goodman in November, Hedy Weiss opened her review in the Sun-Times with, “If you wish to be among the first to see the play that in every way, shape and form deserves to become the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, head directly to the Goodman's Owen Theatre, where Lynn Nottage's Ruined is now in its explosive world premiere.” We wonder if Weiss can predict other occurrences as accurately. We’d really like to win the lottery.

The Pulitzer Prize is awarded an American author for an original work relating to American life, the guidelines state. The award is $10,000 and some major bragging rights. While these plays undoubtedly move to New York to garner greater success, it’s clear that the best theater really comes from right here in Chicago.

Ruined is running Manhattan Theatre Club in a co-production with the Goodman through May 10. You can see some videos of the production on MTC’s website.

Photo by Joan Marcus