Review by Jeanne Kinley Deller
Through determination and stamina, following the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama bombings in which four young African American girls were murdered, a resilient and determined Nina Simone channels her musical gifts in a manner that bewilders those around her. “Nina Simone: Four Women” plays The Seattle Repertory Theatre in Seattle Center now through June 2, 2019.
Nina and three very diverse women find themselves in the shell of the 16th Street Church, grappling with the devastation in divisive and conflicting manners that cast doubts on each other. Each woman’s self-identity fluctuates according to the disparities in her background and the shade of her skin.
While Jennifer Zeyl’s stark staging transports the audience into the midst of the bombed-out church, it’s as though the four young girls whose lives were lost are ever present in spirit. Shontina Vernon is high-spirited in her role as Nina Simone, while Shaunyce Omar anchors the show in her brilliant portrayal of Sarah.
The Seattle Rep invites audiences to join in “a series of enlightening, empowering, and engaging events” with ties to current injustices. Striking similarities of the 1960s and today’s conflicted societies are unfathomable. This point was driven home in the post-play discussion of current atrocities in our local and national surrounds.
For more information on “Nina Simone: Four Women,” including tickets, special events, and post-show discussions, visit seattlerep.org. You have through June 2nd to secure seats for this heart-wrenching, thought-provoking performance at Seattle Repertory Theatre.
Photo by Nate Watters