Plagued by epidemic rape and violence since civil war broke out in 1996, Congo has lost over five million lives. Yet Lynn Nottage wrote a play about that country, set in a brothel, and the Pulitzer-winning Ruined is a deeply involving, gratifying, and—dare I say it about a war zone?—enjoyable experience. There’s even music and dancing. Intiman’s new artistic director, Kate Whoriskey, directed the original production, and she retains most the cast and crew for this version. This virtuoso team gives Ruined the natural fluidity of an organism that is doing what it was born to do. Brothel proprietor Mama Nadi (the one-named actress Portia) values profit over partisanship. She cheerfully serves anyone who pays, whether fighting for the rebels or government. But her whorehouse demands new product, and these young women tell us their stories and sing a few songs. If Mama Nadi seems a slightly familiar figure, profiteering to survive the horrors of war, she is. Nottage began the play as a reworking of Brecht’s Mother Courage; and some vestiges remain. But Nottage is a skilled author in her own right, with a gift for character-rich dialogue. Mama Nadi’s place beckons as an exotic, even (deceptively) peaceful, destination and refuge. The violence and suffering of Ruined are more implicit than overt: a limp, a wince, a recounted memory. Because Nottage and Whoriskey wisely choose not to overload the suffering in Ruined, they play actually allow us to feel more. MARGARET FRIEDMAN

Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays. Starts: July 2. Continues through Aug. 15, 2010

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