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School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play

Members say: Great acting, Funny, Entertaining, Relevant, Clever

About the show

MCC Theater's buoyant and biting world-premiere comedy explores the universal similarities (and glaring differences) facing teenage girls across the globe. How far would you go to be queen bee?

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Paulina, the reigning Queen Bee at Ghana's most exclusive boarding school, has her sights set on the Miss Universe pageant. But the mid-year arrival of Ericka, a new student with undeniable talent and beauty, captures the attention of the pageant recruiter – and Paulina’s hive-minded friends. Directed by Tony-winner Rebecca Taichman ('Indecent.')

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews


"Endearing and poignant...Taichman delivers another spot-on production, with Bioh's realistic blend of humor and bite swiftly making its points in a play that's solidly satisfying...The joy of the moment comes when watching the young women with limited singing capabilities cheerfully having their moment in the spotlight...With the rest of the play being funny and issue-oriented, 'School Girls' is most touching when focused on the nice girls." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Rebecca Taichman's direction hits all the right notes, lightly spoofing the girls' aspirations while also demonstrating that these beautiful, bubbly, intelligent young creatures are beguiling enough without having to borrow from Western culture. The cast is loaded with fresh faces you'll want to see again...It's even easier to imagine bright futures for the talented young ladies of the cast and their playwright, all of whom make their mark in this delightful comedy-drama." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“It matters little that the situations are old-hat, contrived, and manipulative; the African setting gives it a delightful twist, it's written with much wit, and it's so well-played by a first-rate cast, that you find yourself absorbed from its first words to its last. A huge hand must go to…director…Taichman for making this play so…spirited. 'School Girls'…has some moments of bitterly divisive meanness but, with its plentiful laughs and tears, it's also uplifting, unifying, and funny.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"It is a lot of fun—punctuated by moments of stunning cruelty and painful revelation...There is much that rings painfully true in Bioh’s seventy-minute immersion in those estrogen-charged, initiation-to-adulthood dramas, rife with both tenderly shared secrets and blindsiding betrayals. But there is something more here...'School Girls' delivers enough punch to keep you engaged and entertained—even if the payoff punch is a tad short of a knockout." Full Review


“While you’re waiting for the musical version of the movie to arrive on Broadway this spring, warm up with this remarkable journey into a Ghanaian girls’ school...Staged by Taichman with an irresistible combination of verve and sensitivity, ‘School Girls’ is pretty impossible not to love, even as the play takes a predictable turn into heart-on-sleeve coming-of-age territory. The ensemble is flawless and so engaging that this MCC Theater production has now been extended twice." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

"Actress Jocelyn Bioh’s professional playwriting debut is a sharp, uproarious tale...Tony-winning director Rebecca Taichman keeps it all in check, never letting things get out of hand or become too clichéd...'School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play' is no mere African American version of 'Mean Girls'; instead, it is as smart and entertaining, as sweet and honest, its characters as obnoxious and horrible and lovable and vulnerable, as teen girls themselves." Full Review


"It starts out sitcom funny, with six young women chattering...mostly about who will be chosen to compete in the coming Miss Ghana pageant...A young woman just returned from America whose lighter skin makes her in the eyes of some more likely to win...Watching these young women deal with the harsh realities thrown at them, whether with stone-faced silence or gut-wrenching primal screams, gives significant depth to plays that might otherwise seem superficial." Full Review


"Colorism has real implications that we see brought to bear to stinging effect...This idea is explored in nuanced moments...’School Girls’ is also very funny...Sometimes, the play's brisk 75-minute pacing does lead to moments that feel simplified...It's a compliment to ‘School Girls’ to say that there could fruitfully be more of it...Bioh has crafted a fresh, keen interpretation of a frequently used trope, while Taichman and her cast have created a lively and satisfying production.” Full Review


“The play really is, as the title suggests, simply – and I think audaciously – the film ‘Mean Girls’ set in west Africa. Ms. Bioh’s writing is joyous and alive, and often very funny. Her treatment of issues such as self image and notions of beauty is never forced and always compassionate. Taichman directs with brio and warmth. The production is a breath of fresh air that doesn’t shy away from unabashedly entertaining. Which brings us to the cast, which is a knockout.” Full Review

Village Voice

“Imagine the cult-classic millennial satire ‘Mean Girls’ transposed to ’80s Africa and starring six high-school seniors at the Aburi Girls Boarding School competing for the crown of Miss Ghana 1986...As sprightly and funny as the play is — there’s still a heaviness to it. Seldom is this side of Africa seen: everyday teenage life, beauty, community, vulnerability, humor — humanity...Africa just can’t seem to win.” Full Review


"One of the funniest shows of the season, benefiting not just from sharp writing, but a stellar cast that knows how to ground this comedy in real stakes...Director Rebecca Taichman has impressively fostered a familiarity within the cast that makes it seems as though they've been living together for years...It would be easy to condemn Paulina as a mean girl, but Bioh forces us to question how she became that way." Full Review


"Delightful ensemble work...The play is full of light and laughter...It’s impossible not to laugh at their clever, but cruel schoolgirl humor. At the same time, it’s impossible not to brood over the importance they place on skin tone...One thing you cannot call this play is subtle...Bioh goes too far with the character of Paulina, who is an insufferably over-the-top narcissist and far too polished a villain." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"A ferociously entertaining morality tale that proves as heartwarming as it is hilarious...Bioh makes an auspicious playwriting debut with this uproarious comedy that also pulls at the heartstrings...The broad humor occasionally lacks subtlety, and the piece feels like an extended one-act. But when was the last time you wished a play were actually longer?...Taichman provides a fast-paced staging that makes the play engaging from first minute to last." Full Review

The New York Times

"The nasty-teen comedy genre emerges wonderfully refreshed and even deepened by its immersion in a world it never considered...Beneath the infectious silliness of Biog's play’s adopted genre, the ugly question of internalized racism lurks...Mostly and smartly, she trusts the form; there’s a reason these stories work. Ms. Taichman’s production highlights all of those reasons...One of the production’s chief assets is the delicious ensemble work." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Nearly assaultive hilarity...'School Girls' is a kind of Bioh bonanza; after several seasons of settling for just one of her, there are suddenly eight...Her brief play is missing its middle...Taichman leans so far into the bright Punch-and-Judy colors of the first 50 minutes that the last, humanistic 20 seem to take place on a different planet. Still, Bioh knows how to write a stunning breakdown scene, and Boafo handles the tonal switcheroo with ease." Full Review

New York Theater

"An often unsubtle but ultimately stimulating new play...What becomes clear is how deliberate Bioh’s crafting of her play and how intriguing her insights...The playwright also deftly draws character dynamics...Director Rebecca Taichman exhibits none of the ingenuity in stagecraft that won her the Tony...What the production has going for it above all is its eight-member cast — all wonderful, all women, an ensemble whose girlish enthusiasm feels so real that we revel in it.." Full Review


“Highly comic and poignant...a fresh take on the familiar terrain of feuding high school girls. It's a substantive comedy that’s superbly staged and wonderfully performed...Bioh’s snappy dialogue perfectly renders the rhythms of teenage lingo and the pain beneath the bravado, emitting the universality of adolescence. Bioh’s construction is meticulous....Besides the foreign setting there’s nothing really 'new' about the play but’s it’s so well written and gloriously presented." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

“A delightful play…There are hilarious examples of their misunderstanding of American culture…Bioh overlays the well-worn conventions of teenage cliques and beauty pageant competition with an additional ingredient: colorism…Has anything changed since 1986? Come, find out and be entertained. The actors are all wonderful. Director Rebecca Taichman has demonstrated her usual sure but deft hand.” Full Review

The Wrap

“Is there anything new and funny to be said about beauty contests? Bioh takes on that challenge in her new and very first play...Bioh sets that most superficial of competitions in a girls’ boarding school in the Aburi Mountains of central Ghana...Taichman directs her young actors to deliver their performances in bright, primary colors...Comedy can be serious business, but Bioh doesn’t trust her own humor...When did plays become skits with a moral stuck on at the end?” Full Review


"A first-rate production of Jocelyn Bioh’s very funny (and ultimately very sad) 'School Girls'...Bioh smartly captures the way teenagers talk and act towards each other...Fortunately, Bioh does equally well with the play’s two adult characters...Everything has been immaculately staged by Tony Award winner Rebecca Taichman, who guides all the women to sure-handed performances...The play feels a little slight sometimes...But its conclusion is just right." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“There is another very different 'Mean Girls' getting ready to launch on Broadway shortly that Tina Fey is working on. But, believe me, nothing could rival the 'African Mean Girls Play'...Not to be missed. Bioh is to be congratulated on her ability to create a very humorous script bringing topical/important issues to light, together with Taichman on her always splendid creativity in directing this oh, so talented cast.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Funny and fast-paced...Under Taichman’s confident hand, 'School Girls' rolls swiftly through its 75 minutes...'School Girls' is formulaic without being unsatisfying. Familiar structures, especially when full of fresh faces and sharp humor, can be deeply enjoyable...Its emotional and narrative leaps are fast, even a little too fast...Bioh knows how to craft bouncy, juicy dialogue that performers can have fun with." Full Review


"Ms. Bioh has flawlessly captured the rhythms and speech patterns of anxiety-ridden teens, with their razor-sharp lines of social demarcation and their endless reserve of passive aggression. But this is also a play whose characters do not fit the cardboard-cutout roles of traditional teen comedies." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"That rare piece of theatre that feels authentic from beginning to end—a perfect amalgam of prescient writing, superb acting, spot-on design and savvy direction...A taut exploration of racism, colorism and classism that upends notions of self-loathing and challenges the world's definition of beauty...You'll feel the heartache and unfairness of a callous world amidst the laughter and gaiety playwright Bioh so accurately captures." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

“The humor keeps the pace up and the jokes land easily...The true worth and profundity of this play emerges gradually...The characters gain depth as we learn more about them...There is something so undeniably likable about the entire cast, who have clearly formed a strong ensemble...There is an energy and honesty to all of the performances...A light directorial touch by Taichman is surely to be credited here also; a laudable approach especially in handling a first script by a new playwright.” Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Funny, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You are looking for an intersectional Mean Girls that showcases the similarities and differences of teenage girls across the world.

Don't see it if You don't like coming of age stories in any context

Ambitious, Clever, Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Relevant

See it if You're interested in the similarities and contrasts between the pressures experienced by high-school girls in the developed/developing world

Don't see it if You're not interested in an all female cast exploring and challenging the western idea of beauty and values that objectify women

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy funny, smart dialog and some terrific young talent on stage.

Don't see it if You failed to see relevance and humor in movies like “Heathers” or plays like “The Wolves”. This ain’t your jam.

Also Ms Bioh has written a very funny, poignant and smart play that deserve... Read more Read less

Delightful, Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Hilarious

See it if Go go go

Don't see it if idkkkkk ur a bad person

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Refreshing

See it if you want to see fine ensemble acting. This 70 minute play is both humorous and poignant.

Don't see it if you have no interest in the psyches of teenage girls and find the discussion of racism based on skin-tone irrelevant.

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if you like comedy/drama that tackles adolescence and race issues with heart. Brilliant script. Witty. Poignant. Fresh lively cast.

Don't see it if you don't care about teen girl issues.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Hilarious

See it if you want to see a hilariously touching production that takes place 30 years ago but resonates crucially today.

Don't see it if you want something long winded and flashy - this production is short, fast, and has a huge heart at its core

Funny, Delightful, Great acting, Refreshing, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a new play by an up-and-coming playwright: Jocelyn Bioh. Being an actress, Bioh knows how to create characters with dialog.

Don't see it if just go and have a good time!

Also Great to see parents bringing their children to see this play.

Well-acted, Energetic, Well-directed, Very little there

See it if you would enjoy another well-directed high school girl chit chat play with excellent, engaging young actors and an unexceptional script

Don't see it if you like plays that have some depth, writing that sings, and humor that is not tired; you want to see more than an extended clever skit

Funny, Great acting, Relevant, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if you can see the underlying messages in the group of girls with their head bully and her biting (sometimes funny, sometimes sad) put-downs

Don't see it if you don't want a story where women are judged on the shade (various shades of 'black') of their skin

Clever, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if you want to watch something lighthearted and funny yet rooted in social issues and reality, you want a well-written and concise play

Don't see it if you want epic staging and spectacle, you just want pure fluff or pure seriousness

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if are interested in teenage psychology, or in how high school relationships in Africa & the US compare, or love vibrant young actors.

Don't see it if don't care about the somewhat self-centered interests of a group of young people, in this case, teenage African girls.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Refreshing, Great writing

See it if you want to see a time-tested story through a unique cultural lens

Don't see it if you don't want to see the work of a promising playwright finding her legs

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You are in the mood for intelligent treatment of culture clashes. This is a fab play about wished-for upward mobility of African women.

Don't see it if You are impatient with played focused on culture and mores.

Funny, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if You want to see a great cast take on the politics of skin color in an acerbic play with plenty of laughs to leaven the sad, painful reality

Don't see it if Dramas about friendship power dynamics and/or race don't interest you.

Also As far as settings go, 1986 Ghanaian boarding school is fairly specifi... Read more Read less

Funny, Great acting, Overrated, Entertaining, Fluffy

See it if You want to be entertained by a funny play that does not tax the brain.

Don't see it if You prefer to see serious issues raised treated with depth and genuine insight.

Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if interested in racism in its varying forms. The subject is treated with kindness, much humor and angst. Great ensemble and direction.

Don't see it if you don't care about teenagers and their antics, self perception and the topic of racism and colorism. With all this in mind, see it anyway

Absorbing, Edgy, Intelligent, Resonant, Great staging

See it if you enjoy drama. This is serious subject matter tackled with a great deal of humor. Very entertaining.

Don't see it if you doubt that the U.S. and its playwrights are great.

Great acting, Great writing

See it if You want to see a very good show with a great cast It was a lot funnier than I expected

Don't see it if You are not interested in how high school girls can be mean to each other.

Also I was pleasantly surprised by this show. There were parts almost made ... Read more Read less

Great acting, Must see, Great writing

See it if beautifully crafted storyline, characters and writing appeal; superb acting; funny and intensely though-provoking simultaneously.

Don't see it if no reason not to see this

Also A real treat and great surprise. What a cast - each so perfectly cast ... Read more Read less

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Overrated, Entertaining

See it if a brief show, both funny and sad, about adolescent girls. The playwright writes funny and moving scenes. The African setting is fascinating.

Don't see it if Some of the plot points are labored and irrational, and the play feels incomplete and fragmented. Could be so much better!

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you want to see a well-crafted, well-acted, concise play that has a lot to say about social dynamics, with scads of unexpected humor.

Don't see it if bullying or mean girls-style situations are a trigger for you. The show handles the material deftly, but for some it may hit close to home.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Relevant

See it if Partner's 92 and my 82. Acting superb. It is U.S. High School moved to Ghana. Great for someone on the move as less than 80 minutes.

Don't see it if alas,there is no true solution to the bullying of so many today The Lortel has not been able to solve its "banking of the seats" problem"

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Intense, Relevant

See it if you want global view of childhood, race and identity or are looking for a piece exploring the toxicity in and out of social circles.

Don't see it if Africa, school girls (and their issues) or plays about race/identity in everyday life are not your coup of tea.

Funny, Great acting, Profound, Relevant, Great writing

See it if A wonderful comedy with serious undertones - the cast is phenomenal! Sharp script too!

Don't see it if You don’t like plays featuring teenagers or seek a musical

Cast & Creatives (15)