Not that Bioh is on a soapbox: Paulina Sarpong is the alpha girl whose giddy gang of minions is just starting to rebel when the arrival of a light-skinned new girl who has been raised in the United States pushes the incipient coup over the top.
Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping
In the play, Schoole pushes this incident back towhere it can be allowed to coexist with the pop songs and sitcoms that were the soundtrack of her first-generation-American youth while at the same time speaking to the demoralizing effects of skin-tone prejudice on women of color.
And yes, she gets to have it all: Summer L. Williams helms the spontaneous SpeakEasy staging with a loving eye toward the ambition and teacher xxx student of those years. And she keeps the vehicle on the road when it threatens to veer from seriously intended comedy into melodrama.
Set designer Baron E.
Ireon Roach manages the near-impossible task of making the wincingly smug and nasty Paulina schoole, so obviously rooted in fantasy and perceived inferiority are her manipulations. Sometimes her bullying seems as desperate as it is spiteful, and her would-be-beauty-queen posing is silly yet somehow touching.
For her part, Victoria Byrd makes the sweetly aspiring Ericka almost goofy, which makes her likable as well. Crystin Gilmore plays Headmistress Francis as a girls if exacting teacher, whose catty inner schoolgirl can be made to meow just a little by the appearance of former Aburi classmate Girls Amponsah, the proud erstwhile Miss Ghana who turns up as the pageant recruiter.
Tellingly, the poised Kris Sidberry plays Eloise as a tougher, more polished Paulina.