Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Ruined

Go To

Ruined is a 2008 stage play by Lynn Nottage.

It takes place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, during The Congo Wars. The setting is a mining town where one Mama Nadi owns a bar/poolroom/brothel. Waitresses serve food and drinks and also provide horizontal services. Workers from the local tin mine patronize the bar as do soldiers from various warring factions. In the opening scene Christian, a traveling salesman, drops off his niece Sophie at the bar, looking for a place of semi-safety for her in the lawless violence of the Congo.

The theme is the brutality of war and how it is inflicted against women.

William Jackson Harper, who later became famous as a regular on TV series The Good Place, appeared in the original cast playing several roles, the most prominent being Simon, government soldier and buddy to Salima's husband Fortune.



  • The Alcoholic: Christian, who as a result won't touch Mama's beer.
    Christian: Last time I had a drink, I lost several years of my life.
  • Bookends: Begins and ends with Christian entering the bar and Mama serving him a Fanta.
  • The Chanteuse: Sophie is employed as a singer at the bar.
  • Death of a Child: Salima recounts the story of how her baby was murdered by soldiers while Salima was being gang-raped.
  • Defiled Forever: What Salima's husband Fortune thought, in the backstory, when he sent her away after she escaped from five months of captivity as a militia Sex Slave.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Salina dies in Fortune's arms after attempting a self-administered abortion.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After all the suffering and death, after Sophie and Mama are raped, and after Mama loses her diamond, the UN comes in and brings peace to the region. The play ends with Mama and Sophie and Josephine surviving, and Mama finding love with Christian. Christian even gets back on the wagon.
  • Advertisement:
  • Flipping the Table: Fortune, Salima's husband who has been looking for her, flips the table when he comes to the bar and is told that Salima isn't there.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Christian comes to the bar and starts knocking back drinks while recounting how the militia killed the white missionary, and how Christian had to bury him after the militia butchered him and left him to rot for a week.
  • Local Hangout: Mama Nadi's. Cold beer, a pool table, and prostitutes, but the hanging out at the Local Hangout has become a lot more problematic with waves of bloodthirsty militia going back and forth through the area.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Eight lines after Kisembe the rebel leader leaves the bar, his mortal enemy Commander Osembenga of the government enters the bar.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: Discussed Trope, and very serious. Christian is very disturbed by the murder of the white missionary; if the militia are lawless enough and confident enough to kill white people, it's a very bad sign for the natives.
  • Never Learned to Read: Josephine tries to humiliate Salima by asking why she looks at Josephine's fashion magazine if she can't even read. Salima says she looks at the pictures.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Barkeeping: What Sophie is doing at the beginning of Act 2, Scene 4 as Christian recounts the horrors he's seen in the bush.
  • Off the Wagon: The brutality of the war and the shocking things he has seen lead Christian, The Alcoholic, to start drinking again.
  • Stealing from the Till: Sophie is skimming off the profits of the bar, hoping to get enough money for a bus ticket out. Mama catches her.
  • Title Drop:
    • Sophie, one of the two new girls that Christian brings to the bar, is "ruined" after she was gang-raped by militia. With a bayonet. Her injuiries are ghastly enough that she is unsuitable for sex work, and she requires corrective surgery.
    • Then in the last scene Mama tells Christian she is "ruined" after she's raped by government soldiers.
  • Traveling Salesman: Christian, patron of the bar, who is worn down by years of life on the road. He also brings supplies to the bar, but the lawlessness and violence of war are making that difficult, much to Mama Nadi's irritation.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Sophie stashes some beer money. Mama sees her do it.