That it’s a one-woman show, even if it is written and performed by insanely talented Apphia Campbell, had us doubting. Solo stage shows, it’s fair to say, can be at best confusing, and at worst unengaging.
Shanghai, we were wrong! Campbell transfixed, she
charmed, she entertained and ultimately moved a packed theater with her touching portrayal of the jazz musician reeling and reminiscing in the aftermath of her father's death. In PTS' play, Nina becomes Mena but her memories nonetheless evoke the personal and professional highs and lows of the late, great Simone. There's the tenderness of a first love; warmth of family life; and tragedy of an abusive marriage, all seamlessly navigated by Campbell.
There's anger, too, and grit. To be Young, Gifted and Black in 1960s America, the voice of the civil rights movement and even before that, victim of prejudice — it's powerful stuff, and all the more poignant thanks to radio snippets of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
Of course, any Nina Simone biopic worth its salt needs music and, unsurprisingly, it's here that Campbell's Black is the Color excels. It's laced with song and, believe us, that girl can sing. The team is sorting out some (quite minor) sound issues and, seating-wise, you're going to want to get there early to be near the front — Campbell may have the voice of a giant, but she's also quite petite, and being able to see her energy is what makes this surprising gem of a play so special.
All in all, itâ€™s excellent. For details, click here.