Theater on TV: Off-Broadway Productions for New Yorkers

July 22, 2019

Theater Close-Up, THIRTEEN’s series showcasing Off-Broadway and regional theater, continues with three new specials.

School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play

Friday, August 16, at 9 p.m.


Set in 1986, writer Jocelyn Bioh’s new play explores internalized racism in this pointed comedy directed by Tony Award® winner Rebecca Taichman (Indecent) and produced Off Broadway by the Manhattan Class Company (MCC). The 2018 Lortel Award winner for Best Play, School Girls, set in Ghana, examines the universal similarities (and glaring differences) facing teenage girls across the globe. In a bitingly comic tale of bitter reversals, Paulina — the reigning adolescent queen bee at Ghana’s most exclusive boarding school — has her heart set on not just competing in the Miss Universe pageant, but decisively winning it. However, the unexpected appearance of Ericka, an American transfer student with undeniable talent and beauty —and a lighter skin tone — captures the attention of the pageant recruiter along with Paulina’s posse of hive-minded friends.

Assessing the building power of Bioh’s play in his New York Times review, critic Jesse Green wrote, “With no underlining and without sacrificing laughs, [Bioh is] able in the last scene to bring the audience to an unexpectedly ambivalent conclusion about the morality of cultural dominance. In it, Americans may realize that, as far as Africa is concerned, we are the mean girls.”

l to r: Joanna A. Jones and MaameYaa Boafo in the MCC Theater production of “School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Credit: 2018 Craig Schwartz Photography

l to r: Joanna A. Jones and MaameYaa Boafo in the MCC Theater production of “School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Credit: 2018 Craig Schwartz Photography

On the Exhale

Friday, August 16, at 10:15 p.m.


When a random act of gun violence tears one woman’s world apart, she finds herself caught in the crosshairs of power lost and, very possibly, regained — but at what price? Tony Award® nominee Marin Ireland (Sneaky Pete) stars in this gripping new play by Martín Zimmerman, performed by the Roundabout Theatre Company. Tony nominee Leigh Silverman (Well, Roundabout’s Violet) directed this 60-minute tour de force world premiere for Roundabout Underground in 2017.

Uncle Vanya

Friday, August 23, at 9 p.m.


In its inaugural production, the Hunter Theater Project presented Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Frederick Loewe Theater at Hunter College, directed by playwright Richard Nelson (author of the Apple and Gabriel Family plays) from a translation by Nelson, Richard Peyear and Larissa Volokhonsky. This production also marks the first time renowned Russian literature translators Pevear and Volokhonsky have had a work premiere in New York City.

Vanya (Jay O. Sanders) and his niece Sonya (Yvonne Woods) struggle to care for the estate owned by Vanya’s brother-in-law, a wealthy and celebrated professor. When this local legend returns with a beautiful new wife and announces his plans to sell the estate, hidden passions explode and the lives of the entire family come undone. Performed in an unusually intimate and conversational style, Richard Nelson’s new interpretation provides an up-close encounter with an enduring classic of world drama.


Watch all productions online after broadcast dates at thirteen.org/TheaterCloseUp.