As the title suggests, playwright Christina Ham has created a contemporary dramatization of "Four Women," one Nina Simone's most popular protest songs. Like the song, the play features four women: Sarah, a dark-skinned black woman with a back "strong enough to take the pain"; Sephronia, a mixed-race woman who belongs "between two worlds"; Sweet Thing, a tan-black sex worker with a "mouth like wine"; and Peaches, a brown-black woman with a "tough manner," a double for Simone herself. After a powerful and evocative opener, the play becomes a discussion of the way class, gender, and skin tone created tension within the civil rights movement. Peaches/Simone uses these conflicts as inspiration for the song she's trying to write, which ends up being the indisputably amazing and defiant "Mississippi Goddam." Eventually, the characters come to learn that the shared pain and pleasure of black cultural experience unites them despite their differences.
by Rich Smith
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