Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN at Berkshire Theatre Group Provides an Eye Opening, Powerful, Stirring, and Unique Theatrical Experience.

pixeltracker

Riveting, Relevant, and Oh So Real.

BWW Review: NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN at Berkshire Theatre Group Provides an Eye Opening, Powerful, Stirring, and Unique Theatrical Experience.

Set in the fragments of a shattered world, this provocative and powerful musical exploration imagines a conversation between Simone and three African American women. In the aftermath of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, Nina Simone rocked the nation with "Four Women," her tribute in song to the four young girls murdered. Scholar and artist Thulani Davis called the song "an instantly accessible analysis of the damning legacy of slavery, that made iconographic the real women we knew and would become." Director and Choreographer, Gerry McIntyre says, "At a time when people are feeling the need to do something in our hurting world but don't know how to start, this production is an incredible reminder that you just need to take the first step. Or write the first note. Nina Simone: Four Women meditates on Nina Simone's transition from a singer to an activist. It also deals with issues of colorism among black women that aren't typically dealt with."

As a "Boomer" who has always been drawn to music outside of the popular or top 40 genre, I was vaguely familiar with the name Nina Simone. That, however, did not prepare me for the deeply moving experience. On some very small level, the experience was similar to MAMA MIA in that one artist's music is served up as a carefully curated collection woven through a story. Technically, I believe that NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN fits the definition of a play with music as opposed to a Musical. That said, the two experiences are as similar as night and day.

BWW Review: NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN at Berkshire Theatre Group Provides an Eye Opening, Powerful, Stirring, and Unique Theatrical Experience.
Sasha Hutchings, Felicia Curry, Darlesia Cearcy,
Najha Hetsberger. All photos: Jacey Rae Russell

Five musical numbers from Simone, herself, along with church hymns and a few other selections to total a dozen, connect three scenes in Christina Ham's work directed and choreographed by Gerry McIntyre. The four women featured are brilliantly played by Felicia Curry (Nina Simone), Darlesia Cearcy (Aunt Sarah), Sasha Hutchings (Sephronia), and Najha Hetsberger (Sweet Thing). As each of these skilled performers join the action and opens their mouth to sing, their talent is overwhelmingly clear and impressive. These ladies leave no doubt as to their being triple threats. These ladies did not come to play. They speak, sing, and move, not as well rehearsed performers presenting characters, but as the individuals themselves would. These four women are in lockstep, we hang on just about every powerful word they utter and when they harmonize, it is truly a beautiful and joyful noise. Ham's dialogue allows us to see their truth / motivation. We get a rare but honest look at who these women are when the makeup and hair, also, noteworthy and well designed by Earon Chew Nealey, comes off - both figuratively and literally. They do so on a simple, yet effective and appropriate set designed by Randall Parsons, with lighting designed by Matthew E. Adelson. Sound designed by Kaique DeSouza was particularly effective and reminded this boomer of "Sensurround". Costumes were appropriate, impressive, and well designed by Sarafina Bush.

BWW Review: NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN at Berkshire Theatre Group Provides an Eye Opening, Powerful, Stirring, and Unique Theatrical Experience.
Felicia Curry, Darlesia Cearcy, Sasha Hutchings​​

I am not suggesting that NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN is perfection. I am not saying that this is a once in a lifetime cannot be missed production. I am saying that this is most certainly a very fine example of synergy, whereby the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. It is also some damned fine theatre that will educate and move you. I wholeheartedly recommend celebrating Miss Simone's long-lasting legacy in this provocative and personal musical journey. NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN continues on the Larry Vaber stage at Berkshire Theatre Group's Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, through September 5. Visit https://www.berkshiretheatregroup.org/ for tickets and more information.


Related Articles View More Boston Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Marc Savitt