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October 14, 2011

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The No. 1 Reason To See: The Mountaintop

by Jesse North

mountaintop broadway play poster samuel l jackson angela bassettThere are three larger-than-life personalities on stage in Katori Hall’s two-person play, The Mountaintop: Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Of course, Jackson is playing King, but it’s the three of them that share the stage. In this new play, King returns to his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis after delivering his famous “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech. The night is April 3, 1968—the eve of King’s assassination. As he unwinds from the evening, a housekeeper named Camae delivers him coffee (played by Bassett), and the two proceed to have the most important conversation of King’s life.

The No. 1 Reason To See The Mountaintop: The blending of history and fantasy
Hall uses historical facts and research to flesh out the character of King. I call him a character, because this version of him is fiction. The events of The Mountaintop take a historical premise and shoot it through a fictional cannon. The result is an immersive experience that let’s the imagination run free. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died almost 50 years ago. The legacy of King has surpassed King: the man. There are younger generations (myself included) that have only known textbook descriptions and archival video of him, that know him only as a god-like historical figure for his profound messages of peace and courage. Hall gives audiences a chance to get to know the man behind the indelible image. That this painted picture might be inaccurate is irrelevant; no one except for the few people still living that were close to King will be able to confirm or deny it. What Hall presents is a portrait of King that enables the audience to laugh, see him smoke, drink, curse, and relax. Beyond that, the play contains plot twists that are breathtakingly staged by director Kenny Leon with cinematic elegance. The sharp flick of a cigarette lighter by Bassett and the quick switch of a lighting cue packs a punch and draws this fantasy even deeper. The Mountaintop is historical indulgence into the legend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rather than answers, it provides a seductive path down the trail of “What if?” on a man who has never left our minds.

The Mountaintop general rush policy: On sale when the box office opens, up to two tickets may be purchased per person for $34.50, cash or credit.

mountaintop broadway play samuel l jackson angela bassett

Photo: Joan Marcus

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Oct 14 2011

    I LOVED this play! Had not heard much about the play before seeing it in September, but it was great. Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett were phenomenal. The mix of fiction and non-fiction was a different experience, but the Katori Hall and Kenny Leon made it an unforgettable experience. Was not expecting such a mix of emotions…laughed more than I expected to, but also experienced deeper emotions as well. Hope everyone takes an opportunity to see it if they can.

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