Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” onstage now at Playmakers Repertory Company in conjunction with Triad Stage of Greensboro, is a thoroughly unique play, one that explores the last night in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., through a careful blend of fact and fiction (but mostly fiction). King, portrayed by a strong-voiced and strongly talented Cedric Mays, is shown here as a real person, complete with human desires and imperfections, including his smoking habit. In fact, it is his imperfections which lead him to meet Camae (Lakisha May), a feisty maid at the hotel where he is staying. The two strike up a flirtatious conversation—though it is mostly King who does the initiating—and, through Camae, King explores how his message is perceived by the common man and the impact his work is having (and not having) on the world.
In the middle of the production, however, the story takes a magical and completely unexpected turn, a turn that the script handles smoothly. Camae is not at all what she seems; she has an important message to deliver to Dr. King, whether he wants to hear it or not. That message and the meeting between these two becomes the catalyst for some brilliant explorations about what it means to be a dreamer and to live a life that impacts the world.
While Hall’s script is not perfect—the two characters could work as more effective counterbalances to one another and some of the humor feels misplaced—director Raelle Myrick-Hodges coaches spirited performances out of both actors and utilizes effective staging techniques to keep the small, two-person show always-moving and visually intriguing. With perfect, artistic lighting from Xavier Pierce and even some special effects, “The Mountaintop” is worth the watch, though it’s hard to say whether Dr. King would have been proud of the play or horrified by the way he is portrayed.
PlayMakers Repertory Company and Triad Stage present THE MOUNTAINTOP at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26 and 27, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1-4, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5, and 2 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus; and at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20 and 22-24, 8 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29-31, 8 p.m. Nov. 1 and 2, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5-7, 8 p.m. Nov. 8 and 9, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 in Triad Stage’s Pyrle Theater, 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro, North Carolina 27401.
Chapel Hill: $15-$45 ($10 UNC students and $12 other college students), except $15-per-ticket (general admission) Tuesday Community Night performances. There are also discounts for UNC faculty and staff and U.S. military personnel.
Chapel Hill: 919-962-PLAY, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/single. Group Rates (15+ tickets): 919-843-2311, email@example.com, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.
Greensboro: 866-579-TIXX or 336-272-0160 or http://triadstage.org/series/125/the-mountaintop#calendar. Group Rates (15+ tickets): 336-274-0067, ext. 221, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapel Hill: http://www.playmakersrep.org/mountaintop.
Chapel Hill: http://www.playmakersrep.org/media/story.aspx?id=dabba87b-e8c3-424c-900e-1e55e2c66962.
PlayMakers Repertory Company: http://www.playmakersrep.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep.
Triad Stage: http://triadstage.org/.
PlayMakers Page to Stage: http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
Triad Stage’s Lucky 13th Season: http://triadstage.tumblr.com/.
Chapel Hill: http://www.playmakersrep.org/aboutus/paulgreen (directions/parking: http://www.playmakersrep.org/visitorinfo).
Greensboro: http://triadstage.org/ (directions: http://triadstage.org/visit and parking: http://triadstage.org/visit#parking.
NOTE 1 All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.
NOTE 2 There will be a FREE post-show discussion with members of the creative team after the Sept. 29th show.
NOTE 3 There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29th (for more information, click http://playmakersrep.org/outreach/allaccess/opencaption).
NOTE 4 From 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5th, the UNC Program in the Humanities will present a $75 program entitled “The History and Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement,” followed by a reception and the 7:30 p.m. performance of The Mountaintop (theater ticket is $28 extra). To see details and to register, click http://humanities.unc.edu/programs/adventures-in-ideas/civil-rights-movement/.
NOTE 5 The the Lucy Daniels Foundation and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society will sponsor FREE post-show “Mindplay” discussions after the Oct. 5th and 6th performances.
The Mountaintop (2009 West End and 2011 Broadway play): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mountaintop (Wikipedia) and http://www.ibdb.com/production.php?id=490429 (Internet Broadway Database).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Katori Hall (playwright): http://katorihall.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katori_Hall (Wikipedia).
Raelle Myrick-Hodges (director): http://raellemyrickhodges.com/ (official website) and http://www.playmakersrep.org/ (PlayMakers Rep bio).
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Civil Rights leader, 1929-68): http://www.thekingcenter.org/ (The King Center) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr. (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.