The Mountaintop – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Martin Luther King, Jr. stood tall as a champion of his people and of the Civil Rights Movement for change. The world became his pulpit as he gave speeches and led marches in his quest to improve the fate of African-Americans in a white dominated country. 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.

Music Theatre of Connecticut 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, February 20, 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 Chaz Rose’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.

Shavonna Banks’ Camae is a woman on a mission, but that mission will remain a mystery for the moment. Banks is brilliant as she baits and comforts 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. Gayle Samuels directs this highly emotional journey that carries the audience to the summit and over the top.

For tickets ($45-65), call Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Avenue, route one, Norwalk at 203-454-3883 or online at Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Be sure to bring proof of vaccination, an ID and a mask.

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.