The Mountaintop at TheaterWorks Hartford

 

By Tom Nissley

TForty-five years, almost to the day, have passed since the last night that Martin Luther King spent in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, before being shot on its balcony the next evening. “The Mountaintop,” in a really intriguing way, asks the question, with whom did King share his room that night?

 

In the script, King calls room service to get a cup of coffee. Room service has closed down, but he persuades a young admirer who has answered the call that he deserves some coffee, and presently she arrives with a tray and a saucy smile. She never makes it back to the kitchen, and her dialogs with MLK provide the gray matter that make this a super reminder of King’s significance in American history.

 

Somewhere along the path of the performance, Camae (Courtney Thomas) reveals that she has an ethereal dimension, and at that point the whole conversation takes on a different hue. Dr. King (Jamil A.C. Mangan) finds ways of expressing paranoia -- great jumps in response to thunder from a storm outside, for instance, and a deepening sense that his time is nearly over.

 

Both Mangan and Thomas give exciting and generous performances, and the direction, by Rob Ruggerio, is precise and beautiful. The set (Evan Adamson) is an authentic reproduction of the motel room itself, and the door to the balcony/walkway is the focused link to the world beyond…Making sense of the whole experience of “The Mountaintop” does not so much require disbelief as it does a reimagining. If you watch it as an observer privy to the inside of a great man’s mind, projected into dialog, you may have a better understanding of playwright Katori Hall’s delicate footnote to the Assassination of Martin Luther King. I think it’s safe to say you’ll like this energetic production. It plays through May 5.

 

Tickets available at www.theaterworkshartford.org, or by calling 860-527-7838.

 

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre

April 7, 2013

 

Tom Nissley at the Ridgelea Institute New Canaan, CT 06840 203-322-1400 direct

 

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