A star is born: Condola Rashad

Ruined Off Broadway Nepotism is to show business as toxic waste is to nuclear power: inevitable and a source of pollution. It's just not fair that Sophia Coppola can raise millions for her twee little flicks, or that Ashlee Simpson was allowed to leave her sister's compound. We recently ended eight years under a dynastic President who was barely fit to run a Chuck E. Cheese. And yet, in acting, sometimes talent really does run down the family tree. After the jump, this week's fresh face.

Condola Rashad makes an utterly transfixing turn in Lynn Nottage's hair-rasing drama Ruined. Adam Feldman's review is here and mine is at NY1 here. (The production just announced an extension through April 12; could a Broadway transfer be in the works?) Rashad's mother is, of course, the queenly Phylicia of Cosby Show fame and a woman who has blazed forth on Broadway in recent years (in Raisin in the Sun and Gem of the Ocean). Condola inherited her mother's sly smile, wide, soulful eyes and natural beauty, but also her ability to make silence as powerful as speech. In Ruined, she plays Sophie, a young Congolese woman who (SPOILER AHEAD) has been raped by bayonet, leaving her genitals mutilated and her social standing in her village, well, utterly ruined. Try that for an acting exercise. Rashad communicates Sophie's physical agony with a pained, wide-legged gait that she tries to hide. But it's in her silences that Rashad is quite powerful, her large, empathetic eyes burning with wounded dignity. Not only is Rashad's acting quite nuanced, she sings a couple of songs very prettily. Okay, now that we've hyped this fine performer, we hope she's not snapped up for movies or a TV show, and graces us with her presence for a few more seasons.