Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Nollywood Dreams Upends Expectations

Nollywood Dreams, at the MCC Theater, by Jocelyn Bioh, is an entirely different (highly entertaining) look at the “Hollywood” dream of millions. Set in “Nollywood”, the third of the major entertainment centers (after Hollywood and Bollywood), this based in Nigeria. But you don’t need to know any of this going in. The background is set quickly and simply, familiar to everyone who has consumed Hollywood stories. And the actors in this show are amazing. They bring an authentic and unique portrayal of the characters.

Nollywood Dreams is the story of a young woman, Ayamma (Sandra Okuyboyejo), who is planning take part in an open casting call for a new movie, “The Comfort Zone”. Directed by famed Nigerian Gbenga Ezie (Charlie Hudson III), the movie promises to be someone’s big break.

(L-R)Charlie Hudson III, Nan Mensahy, Ade Otukoya, Sandra Okuyboyejo, Abena

The truth is, Gbenga’s old flame, Dede (Nana Mensah) is going to play the part and the open call is just a publicity stunt. Dede is a force of nature, like lightning, impressive and a bit scary.  Ayamma’s sister Fayola (Emana Rachelle) is a voice of reason, or just too busy to be bothered. That is, until Ayamma has her heart broken, and then Fayola can be a tiger to protect her sister – albeit a slow tiger.

The face of Nollywood and the star of the movie is handsome star Wale Owusu. Wale is played Ade Otukoya, pulling off charismatic, famous, and friendly all at once. Wale charms everyone he meets, particularly Adenikeh (Abena) an Oprah like daytime talk show favorite that everyone watches.

Adeniken is an over-excited and exciting TV host. She fills us all in on the gossip around the move “The Comfort Zone”. Her show documents the twists and turns of making a movie. Abena is hilarious in the role.

The names, the accents, the settings, all of these are strange only for a moment. As the story progresses you quickly forget all the differences, just as an audience quickly falls into the rhythms of Shakespeare. These are stereotypes from nearly every Hollywood movie. Here they are played over the top in a hilarious but honest way. And, just as in a Hollywood story, the entertainment is not in the ending but the joyousness in getting there.

Emana Rachelle, Sandra Okuyboyejo

The story unfolds in Ayamma and Fayola’s home / office, in the Nollywood Dream’s office and on the set of Adenikeh’s show. Much of Nollywod Dreams is over the top in a planned and authentic way. The show is a traditional showbiz story, interpreted with a decidedly Nigerian take on fame. The cast, a mixture of Nigerian and Brooklyn actors, breath life to the dreams of these people.

I loved Nollywood Dreams. It surprised and engaged me. The story, by Jocelyn Bioh, follows familiar path in a unique way. The direction, Saheem Ali, is tight, even when chaos ensues. I also have to call out the production design by Alex Basco Koch, it kept the show grounded.

Nollywood Dreams

Director: Saheem Ali | Playwright: Jocelyn Bioh | Cast: Abena, Charlie Hudson III, Dandra Okuboyejo, Nana Mensah, Enama Rachelle, Ade Otukoya


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