Summary: Mama Nadi owns a bar/brothel in The Democratic Republic of Congo. One of her rules involves serving any paying customer: including soldiers on either side of the conflict. The setting never changes, but stakes are raised when she is asked to take in more girls than she can handle and is visited both by rebel leaders and soldiers from the current government.
Thoughts: I feel like it is really difficult to offer any sort of critique of this play without appearing racist or culturally insensitive. While the subject matter is unquestionably compelling, I was not extraordinarily moved by the actual text. I was, however, moved by the photographs of the women in the appendix of the play (taken by Nottage’s husband) and information included in the Introduction (by director Kate Whorisky). While the play is not an ethnography, Nottage’s work was primarily informed by interviews with women (in the Congo) who have experienced sexual violence as a result of the political upheaval in their country. Unlike other interview-based work (The Laramie Project, The Exonerated) this play veers away from traditional monologue storytelling…and perhaps this is why I felt emotionally removed from a very emotional subject.
Other nominees in 2009 included In the Heights and Becky Shaw—both largely about families and their internal conflicts, so perhaps the committee decided it was time to award a play set outside of a nuclear family in the United States (from 2000-2010, over half of the recipients involve a central theme of dysfunction in the American family).