Nollywood Dreams

is a date night, ‘culture-lite’ good time

Through May 12
freeFall Theatre
Details here

Ghanaian-American playwright Jocelyn Bioh’s Nollywood Dreams offers a light comedy with just enough messy-romance to keep it lively, using the backdrop of “Nollywood” (Nigeria + Hollywood).

Bioh inserts enough cultural insight into a more modern Nigeria to make it feel authentic without slowing down the laughs. She wryly incorporates the term “Nollywood” – a phrase that became popular in the ’90s to compare the country’s burgeoning independent film industry with that of America’s own “Lala Land” – the movie capital of the world, where actors, screenwriters and directors from around the globe have gone to make their own dreams come true.

photos by Thee Photo Ninja

Bioh’s play is set during the ’90s new wave of Nigerian filmmakers spewing out dozens of movies depicting their modern-day experiences, as their national TV personalities gained popularity investigating the off-screen lives of the industry’s popular actors.

Director Erica Sutherlin is masterful at moving a work across any stage she comes to, and with the added video screens that are a new addition to freeFall’s black box theater, she freely inserts commercials and media moments evoking the nostalgic feel of ’90s Nigeria.

Audiences will laugh at familiar cultural tropes that sometimes feel a little too familiar, but with the quick-paced action, we don’t have much time to worry over any questionable references, and Bioh pulls on our heartstrings while keeping the characters’ humanity – and humor — intact.

The actors – Fahnlohnee Reeves as ingenue Ayamma and Hillary Scales as her star struck sister Dede, Clinton C.H. Harris as struggling director Gbenga and Milton Lyles as heartthrob lead Wale and Shelby Ronea as a delightfully catty, if tragic, aging beauty – all act their hearts off, raising a sometimes-predictable plot into high energy comedy. Andresia Moseley as the gossipy talk show host Adenikeh is especially enjoyable.

With a set and video designed by Eric Davis and lights by Trenten Szabo, the audience is successfully catapulted between a studio office, talk show TV set and back to the living room without missing a beat. Costume designer Jordan M. Jeffers keeps the audience eager to see what colorful glory the fashionable Adenikeh will appear in next.

The hard-hitting ensemble and smart direction result in an hour and forty-minute play that feels like half the time – which is good, since there is no intermission. But it seemingly wasn’t missed – not one audience member left to use the bathroom throughout the evening, which is saying quite a lot.

This is a definite night in the theatre that will leave you feeling satisfied – if laughter is good for the soul, there’s without a doubt enough to go around in Nollywood Dreams. This is one for the girlfriends’ get together, the brothers looking to laugh, and that date night that takes it up a notch from the regular. It’s a winner!


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