Theatre Review: School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play

This review is late in coming as we’ve been out of town but you still have a chance to see School Girls

What: School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh

Where: Pittsburgh Public Theatre (Downtown Cultural District)

When: Through December 8th

Quick verdict: Highly recommended

Reviewed by Gulliver  [email protected]

The first thing you notice about this play about appearances – including, more specifically, colorism – is just how much attention has gone into every aspect of this production, including casting. Far from having a queen bee, a challanger and all the rest, each and every character is a rich interesting type, both in what they say and do, and in their look. School Girls is top notch entertainment and more, as playwright Jocelyn Bioh knows better than to let anything get in the way of the comedy. The substance of the play – and there is plenty of it – is all the better for that as any serio-comic writer knows. Even when one girl is holding court for an extended period of time there is so much going on in the reactions of the others. Just watch – it’s quite amazing.

In terms of plot, School Girls serves up familiar fare, with the popular mean girl challanged by an outsider who is seemingly even more blessed with the superficial attributes we crave. This culminates in a contest (in this case a beauty pagent and not for the attentions of a dreamboat object of attraction), which brings things to a moment of truth. It’s in the richness of the characters and the situation that School Girls distinguishes itself, with everyone’s hidden scars and backstories laid bare by the end.

Oh, that ending. We had inadvertantly read that there was a gut punch at the end, and there wasn’t – or so we thought. It’s oddly deflating but in hindsight there is a gut punch – and it’s a biggie. What’s more of a gut punch than realizing that people don’t take sides in your internecine battles because they simply don’t see any of you at all.

School Girls; Or, The African Means Girls Play is playing at Pittsburgh Public Theatre through Sunday December 8th. Tickets are available here.

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