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This play is a funny romantic comedy about fame, dreams and in riveting Nigerian fashion. The fairytale of the underdog becomes the Nollywood Dream.

Review by Vince Mediaa

San Francisco Playhouse is a casting office this fall as they open their 2023-24 Season with the West Coast Premiere of Nollywood Dreams. The Nigerian film community Nollywood is one step behind Bollywood striving for glitz and stardome. Written by Ghanaian-American writer/performer Jocelyn Bioh and directed by local favorite Margo Hall. Now on stage only through November 4th. Director Hall says she needed Nigerian consultants to give the comedy its authentic feel “(these) folks would guide our process and help us dive into Nigerian culture. Did you know the Nollywood film industry is second in production to Bollywood. The US film industry is third”. Dialect Coach Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe was brought in and added that perfect authentic feel to this already talented cast.

We meet the travel agent Ayamma played by the delightful Angel Adedokun, and her sister Dede played by the stellar Brittany Nicole Sims. Ayamma has the Nollywood Dream to become famous "This is my calling," she says. It's the 1990’s in Lagos, and the two sisters work at the family travel agency as their hearts and minds wander far away. Ayamma longs to break into movies, while Dede browse’s gossip magazines and worships at the novela Days of Our Lives, bent on her dreams of fame and riches. Nigeria’s film industry is on the rise, focusing on soapy plots, low budgets and good looking actors. There’s an open call for a new leading lady; once Dede learns the role is opposite Nollywood star Wale Owusu played by the accomplished Jordan Covington, the sisters team up to land Ayamma the part.

This comedy includes typical entertainment types, including a fading diva actor Fayola played by the sharp Anna Maria Sharpe who adds to this rom com feel as a villain of sorts to keep Ayamma from getting the role she wants. The director of the film Gbenga Ezie whose integrity is a red flag is played by the skilled Tre’vonne Bell. Ezie happens to be the ex boyfriend, and his childhood sweetheart struggling actor is looking for a fresh break, Fayola will do what she can to get the lead role in this backstage sit com. Nigeria’s brand-name director is shooting his new film called “The Comfort Zone” .

Along with the sisters nudging for position, there is the hyper Oprah like talk show host, Adenikeh, played by the equally grand Tanika Baptiste whos TV set swoops in on designer Bill English's turntable set. As the set spins Baptiste encourages the audience to applaud and cheer, and the crowd responds. We meet each of the players through Adenikeh’s on going interviews. Each character delivers and has their moment in Bioh’s script. The dream of Ayamma to be respected as an artist, not a girlfriend, is important to Bioh’s theme. As the story develops Wale becomes fond of Ayamma past the production of the film.

Director Margo Hall’s production is fluid, flowing seamlessly on English’s multi-faced turntable scenic design. Kevin Myrick lighting keeps the talk show set back lit and the office scenes full of warm rays. The show stealer is the lively knockout costumes by Jasmine Milan Williams and Nikeiruka Oruche, the colors and swag add irresistible vibrancy. Projections for the TV set were created by Sarah Phykitt, and the film trailer for “The Comfort Zone” was directed and shot by Adam Elder Montanaro. Sound designer Ray Archie had an electric Nigerian sound score as the audience sat in their seats and between each set and scene. Prop designer Heidi Button kept the mood in the 90’s with dial desk phones with just the right handset cords to tie up and tangle the excited sisters. I happen to see this play on National Stage manager day - so it is nice to mention the fine time management skills of Sarah Marie Selig and Kamaile Alnas Smith, they both kept this company on queue.

Director Hall brings a talented cast to stage and lets them move through comedy, like a POC Marx Brothers movie. Bioh creates a cultural exchange, while commenting on the illusion that Hollywood holds out to international immigrants. Bioh’s plot might be predictable at times but that seems to reflect the style of Nollywood films. The writer pushes us to think twice about fantasy as a means of escape and dreams. Bioh’s script in the final scenes is a soap opera yet charming, it plays to emotions that are human, and the language is like a fine tune song. Her fast-paced comic dialogue is always humorous.

Nollywood Dreams verses a different take on Black Hollywood where actors are dealt with the urban or historic versions. This is the perfect play to celebrate actors and ethnic stories. Be sure to add this production to your fall theatre season. As always the SFPH brings the best new works to the Bay Area and is enjoying a huge comeback at their Union Square venue as most of their plays and musicals have sold out and extended their runs. Next up is the classic Guys and Dolls that opens for the Holidays. But in the meantime join the casting office of Nollywood Dreams, it is open and be sure to be off script for your audition.


West Coast Premiere


By Jocelyn Bioh

Directed by Margo Hall Must closed November 4, 2023 SAN FRANCISCO PLAYHOUSE

San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street.

1 hour 45 min no intermission


Nollywood Dreams performs through November 4, 2023 at San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street. For tickets ($15-$100) and more information, visit or call the box office at 415-677-9596.


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