Playwright Jocelyn Bioh's "Nollywood Dreams," a humorous look at the Nigerian film industry, is at Round House Theatre until July 3. From left: Yao Dogbe (Gbenga Ezie), Ernaisja Curry (Ayamma Okafor), Renea S. Brown (Dede Okafor) and Joel Ashur (Wale Owusu) are four of the actors in the production. (Photo courtesy of Margot Shulman)
Playwright Jocelyn Bioh's "Nollywood Dreams," a humorous look at the Nigerian film industry, is at Round House Theatre until July 3. From left: Yao Dogbe (Gbenga Ezie), Ernaisja Curry (Ayamma Okafor), Renea S. Brown (Dede Okafor) and Joel Ashur (Wale Owusu) are four of the actors in the production. (Photo courtesy of Margot Shulman)

Ayamma Okafor knows she can act and being in front of the camera is within her reach but is she being realistic? That is the premise of “Nollywood Dreams,” the latest African-based play from Jocelyn Bioh

No stranger to Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Md., Bioh has crafted a play where everything is questioned. 

Filmmaker Gbenga Ezie returns to his homeland of Nigeria to cast his latest movie. Whether or not his credentials are legit is one question. His former girlfriend Fayola Ogunleye thinks she has the female lead in the movie opposite Wale Owusu, one of the hottest actors in Nigerian films.

Director Raymond O. Caldwell wanted to ensure Nigerian authenticity in this play, from the dialect to the costumes in “Nollywood Dreams.” In addition to the dialect, this storyline can take place anywhere. 

Caldwell and Bioh worked with Dawn-Elin Fraser, the dialect coach on the creative team for the Off-Broadway production of the play.

“I love what Jocelyn is doing in her work. She is trying to introduce audiences to Africa and not the stereotypical version of Africa,” Caldwell said. “I think there is a greater connection to our understanding of Black people globally.”

Six actors are in the cast of “Nollywood Dreams.” I found all of their characters believable. Joel Ashur is Wale Owusu, the movie star hunk with a receptive heart. Renea S. Brown portrays Dede Okafor, making fun of her sister Ayamma’s dreams. Ernaisja Curry is Ayamma who never gives up on seeing herself on film. Jacqueline Youm is Adenikeh, an over-the-top talk show host who loves the adoration from her guests and audience. Yao Dogbe is Gbenga Ezie, the filmmaker with a questionable background, and Yetunde Felix-Ukwu plays Fayola Ogunleye, a veteran film actress who wants to keep her career going.

Felix-Ukwu is from suburban Maryland, graduating from Elizabeth Seaton High School in Bladensburg. Though born in America, Felix-Ukwu’s parents are Nigerian. She lived in Nigeria until 2016 when she returned to the U.S. She sees herself as a relatively new actress. 

In addition to acting, Felix-Ukwu is a voice-over actress, an African dialect coach and a bourgeoning director. Her character Fayola comes with a deep history that comes through strong.

“I approached this role drawing on all of the African women from which I come,” Felix-Ukwu. “This is the role I’ve been waiting to play my whole life.”

Laughter is what we need and “Nollywood Dreams” delivers. 

The play runs at Round House Theatre until July 3. For ticket information, go to www.roundhousetheatre.org.

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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