"THE MOUNTAINTOP" A SUMMIT OF ENTERTAINMENT
By Bonnie Goldberg
Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee is now a museum and has been one almost since April 4, 1968 when it became immortal. It was the motel balcony that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on when he was fatally shot.
TheaterWorks of Hartford is recreating the momentum and majesty of the man as he climbed to "The Mountaintop" to proclaim his dream of freedom and equality for his people. Until Sunday, May 5, come and be inspired and educated about the Civil Rights leader who preached a peaceful resolution for the advancement of African-Americans.
Like Moses who never lived to see the Promised Land, Martin Luther King, Jr. tragically never lived to see his dream become a reality. "The Mountaintop" by Katori Hall, taken from his impressive and impassioned speech "I've Been to the Mountaintop," imagines the night before he was killed.
From the moment a charismatic and gifted Jamil A. C. Mangan's King picks up his motel room phone, at midnight, to order a cup of coffee through room service, a fantasy unrolls as to what might have occurred that fateful night.
Outside a storm of biblical proportions is raging, while in the room a conflicted Dr. King is trying to calm his jitters, find a cigarette, write his next speech and reach his wife Coretta to ask about his missing toothbrush.
As thunder strikes a fever pitch, a young African-American motel maid delivers his order. Her first day on the job, she is, nonetheless, open and honest, outspoken and feisty in her treatment of this revered motel guest. She knows who he is and she is not awed but empowered to speak her own mind.
Courtney Thomas' Camae is a woman on a mission, but that mission will remain a mystery for the moment. Thomas is brilliant as she baits and assuages King, massaging his ego and his neck, as she provides coffee, his favorite cigarettes and a little "Irish" to his brew.
With the skill of an interrogator, Camae allows an exhausted public leader to expose his fears and weaknesses while pointing out his triumphs and successes. She cloaks his doubts with the promise of hope, that even if he does not live to see his dream come to fruition others will carry on in his name. Rob Ruggiero directs this highly emotional journey that carries the audience to the summit and over the top.
For tickets ($50-63), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Come early to the upstairs gallery for a fascinating peek at the incredible detail the design team led by Evan Adamson took to recreate an authentic motel room 306.
Meet the man who pledged to preach until the day he died. Even though that day came much too soon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. left an enduring legacy on America's conscience.