Saturday, January 25, 2020

School Girls…--Artists Rep—Pearl District



          “Sugar & Spice & [Not So] Nice”

    School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, is performing, in conjunction with Portland Center Stage, at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave.  It is written by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Lava Alapai.  It is performing through February 16th.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org

    When I was a boy, we had a dress code and wore uniforms at school, as do these ladies but, in comparison to the Youth Culture now, my school days were down right dull.  No Electronic, Social Media to rule us, no blatant bulling or frequent suicides, no self-destructive vaping or obvious pill-popping…but then, the 60’s happened and, oh, my goodness, did things pick up then!

    The point being, I guess, is that people and eras evolve.  “That was then, this is now.”  And, to the credit of some Youths now, they are demanding environmental changes and stricter gun control laws for the betterment and safety of all.  “Attention must be paid!”  People do change and heroes do arise out of the debris of the Past (look who is on the cover of Time, as their Person of the Year).  And so, for all the dips on the giant graph of Humankind, there are also grand peaks, too, in which to aspire…and we do reach those tops, eventually.
    For the girls in this story, they do seem to be playing “chicken,” who dares to be most popular and have minions groveling at their feet?  Who’s going to win the international beauty contest and represent Ghana?  But, more importantly, at what cost will this happen…who will get hurt…who will grow and evolve to become a better human being?

    The school is headed by Francis (Kisha Jarrett), the headmistress, who appears to be a strict but fair administrator.  But the definite “Queen of the Walk” is Pauline (Andrea Vernae), who rules her fellow students, not wisely but with an iron fist.  The chief article of ridicule is Nana (Treasure Lunan), who has a weight problem and thus is the butt of all jokes.  There are also the “twin” parrots, Gifty (Tonea Lolin), who has a reading problem, and her inseparable other half, the giggly, Mercy (Kayla Kelly).  And Pauline’s best friend (when the mood suits her) is the obedient, Ama (Tamera Lyn).

    But into this toxic environment, appearing from the States, is the attractive and capable, Ericka (Morgan Walker), and whose father is a rich plantation owner locally.  And to add to this heady brew even more enter, Eloise (Sara Williams), a former Miss Ghana herself, and looking for a successor to that crown, which bears with it rewards, but also at a far-reaching political and personal cost to others.  What will happen in this arena of one-upmanship?...you’ll just have to see for yourselves.

    Alapai has chosen well her cast and the play moves briskly to its conclusion.  The group is uniformly excellent, as you witness all sides of these complex relationships and even, I’m sure, can identify with some of them yourself.  Jarrett, Williams, Walker and Vernae handle the key roles with juicy abandonment.  These are “mean” girls at their most combative and most vulnerable, too.

    I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

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