Mountaintop banner

We are all very familiar with the impact of the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We celebrate how he worked for change in America. We know that he was shot and killed on a spring evening in Tennessee, 46 years ago. But, what might have occurred on the very last night of Dr. King’s life? In all the realms of possibility – what might have taken up his final hours at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis? In writing The Mountaintop, Katori Hall has let her imagination flow to an outer-most possibility in an attempt to answer that question. In doing so, she has allowed us to see a Dr. King many of us could not have imagined; a Dr. King who has reached the mountaintop, and who is about to stumble and fall – great, yet flawed – powerful, yet afraid.

IRT’s latest Upper Stage production takes place entirely in that Lorraine Motel room – Room 306 – outside of which the fateful act of King’s assassination took place. It is richly performed by David Alan Anderson as Dr. King and Tracey N. Bonner as his feisty and mysterious final night’s companion, Camae. It is directed with an open mind and a sure hand by Courtney Sale.

David Alan Anderson and Tracey N. Bonner in Katori Hall's "The Mountaintop" at IRT

David Alan Anderson and Tracey N. Bonner in Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” at IRT


With respect to the possibility that you will be going to see this play, I cannot tell very much about the story, except to say it is a very original and imaginative treatment of an historic time in our history, or rather the hours leading up to it.

Mr. Anderson’s portrayal of Ms. Hall’s King is fully realized – he is bombastic, self-assured, a leader – at the same time, he is restrained, uncertain, even fearful and questioning. He is the real man, not the iconic presence we ordinarily think of, but flawed, unsure, tired and lonesome. Anderson’s understanding of this complex side of the man comes through with a sense of wholeness. This is a complete and rounded depiction.

Ms. Bonner’s Camae, on the other hand, is created from whole-cloth by Ms. Hall. Camae’s initial appearance gives us one set of ideas about her, while her latter self is very different, and a bit mysterious. And when the conversion in her being takes place, we are struck suddenly with an ah-ha moment of “of course” and “why not?” Please note that I must cloak this character a bit so as to not be a spoiler. Just know that Ms. Bonner has a wonderful understanding of how this duplex character should be presented and we are not at all confused or disappointed by her choices. Ms. Bonner’s skill for fidelity to realism in a fanciful role works extremely well here on all accounts.

The Mountaintop takes us to an unlikely place, but it is one we are glad to have visited. It shows us a side of Dr. King which is not often exposed – and a side of possibility we often deny to ourselves. Congratulations to IRT and Ms. Hall for a unique and unexpected theatre experience.

Kudos also must go to the imaginative and effective choices of Lighting Designer Kate Leahy and Sound Designer Tom Horan. Their creations are a vital part of the production’s feel, as is the wonderfully evocative set designed by Robert M. Koharchik.

Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop continues on IRT’s Upper Stage through April 27. Information about show times and dates can be found by logging on to http://www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT ticket office at 317-635-5252. If you have the time, try to get there about 45 minutes before curtain time for an informational prologue – some are done by my great friend, Adam Crowe, and some will be done by Beverly Roach.

*-Photo by Zach Rosing provided by IRT. Other illustrations are from the IRT website.

Advertisements