There’s no shortage of guffaws to take pleasure in in the True Colors Theatre staging of “School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play.” At first look, the current seems to take its cue from American high-school movement photos much like “Clueless” or, certain, “Mean Girls.” But the novelty (for lack of a higher phrase) is that playwright Jocelyn Bioh’s setting happens to be an all-girls boarding faculty in Ghana circa 1986, the place various of the students are making able to audition for a regional magnificence pageant, vying for the final phrase title of Miss Global Universe.
The manufacturing is directed with an optimistic hand by notable Atlanta actress Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, whose earlier directing credit score on the native scene involved frequent themes related to race — albeit by in every other case numerous initiatives similar to the Alliance musical “Nick’s Flamingo Grill” and the Synchronicity drama “Eclipsed.” That she’s going to have the ability to now add a bona fide comedy to her directorial resume is decidedly spectacular.
The meanest of the ladies on the Aburi School, and the just about actually to succeed in the upcoming Miss Ghana rivals, is the pompous Paulina (Ellen Ifeoluwa George). By her private admission smart and beautiful and blessed, she’s moreover the self-appointed ringleader of a small clique of her fellow classmates, demanding their loyalty and bullying the others to keep up them in line.
Her harshest criticisms are aimed at the chubby Nana (Brittany Deneen, a sweet standout in the solid). Agreeably having fun with the rest of the lesser outlined characters in the group: Isake Akanke, Destiny Freeman, and Kristen Jeter. The plot thickens with the arrival of an American change pupil, Ericka (Lauren Richards), who, unwittingly or not, threatens Paulina’s misguided sense of recognition.
Roughly working a mere 70 minutes, “School Girls” proves to be reasonably slight in further strategies than one — producing humorous moments further successfully than it provokes deeper concepts, and principally elevating a lot of pertinent questions that may have been greater answered in a full-length, two-act play.
Besides issues with physique image and physique shaming primarily facilitated by the Nana character, Bioh moreover makes use of Ericka’s comparatively privileged upbringing in the States to deal with problems with classism, and the reality that she has lighter pores and pores and skin as a way to include discussions about colorism. Despite the beauty-pageant context, the playwright, thankfully, refrains from biting off far more than she’s going to have the ability to adequately chew by together with any level out of sexism into the combo as successfully.
A pretentious pageant recruiter (Valeka J. Holt), a former Miss Ghana herself, drives dwelling lots of the play’s bullet components. Bucking for a job promotion and primarily bribing Aburi’s headmistress (a spry Charity Jordan) with a financial bonus for the varsity of the chosen contestant, she talks in regards to the “right aesthetic” and espouses the importance of promoting girls from “the other end of the African spectrum,” thus favoring Ericka over Paulina, who has darker pores and pores and skin.
Kajese-Bolden’s True Colors manufacturing is attractively designed — the gorgeous set is by Ming Chen, the colorful costumes by Jarrod Barnes, and Bradley Bergeron’s projections fantastically convey the passage of time in one scene; and her ensemble handles the Ghanaian accents with considerable aplomb (Ibi Owolabi is credited as a result of the current’s dialect coach).
In the tip, alas, when the varsity girls lastly accumulate spherical a television to have a look at the tip results of the Miss Global Universe ceremony, their sad realization that “the world has already decided white is better than black” is principally obscured by a number of the frivolity earlier it.
“School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play”
Through March 8. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; 11 a.m. Wednesdays; 10:30 a.m. Thursdays. $15-$40. Southwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road SW, Atlanta. 1-888-479-6300. truecolorstheatre.org.