THEATRE REVIEW: “THE MOUNTAINTOP”

Stage Aurora Theatrical Company presented a three day run February 6-8 of “The Mountaintop” at their performance hall in Gateway Shopping Center in Jacksonville.

The play was written by Memphis resident Katori Hall in 2009. It made an interesting journey on its way to a Broadway 2011  opening starring  Samuel Jackson and Angela Bassett. It originally opened at a London England fringe theatre and was such a hit there and won the British equivalent of a Tony, The Olivier Award in 2010.

The play is set in the modest Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee. It is the evening of April 3rd l968, the day before Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on the motel’s balcony.

the mountain top 2-6-15 022      The play opens on a stormy evening in the Memphis  when Dr. King has returned for the evening, having made a speech to the protesting Memphis sanitation workers. He said in last speech “I‘ve been to the mountaintop and seen the Promised Land”. As if a prophesier of what was to happen the next day, he further said “I may not be there with you in that promised land.”

Ms. Hall’s play is a mythical meeting between King and a motel maid, Camae, who brings him coffee but lingers  in  Kings room, flirting and talking with him. King had been  alone working nervously  on a new speech and fretting that he was running out of his favorite Pall Mall cigarettes.

The attractive Came was not your average hotel maid, but  very articulate and intelligent. She engages King in conversation covering politics, religion and his personal life. As an audience member whose knowledge of King was from reading about him in newspapers, seeing sound bites on TV, I found the insightful knowledge into King’s personality fascinating. We learned that he was christened Michael at birth, but his name was changed by this father at age 5. He liked to smoke, have a shot of whiskey in his coffee and that he was very cautious and always checking for F.B.I.  bugs in his room.  Most of us have read of his extra martial affairs, but no mention is made of this in this play although King  certainly recognizes the attractiveness and sensual appeal of this maid.

Director Jack Barnard has been an exceptional award winning character actor and  director on the local stages for many years. He directed a fine production of “A Raisin in the Sun” last season at Stage Aurora. His casting and direction of “The Mountaintop” was outstanding.

Eugene Lindsey was superb as Dr. King and we truly felt we were in King’s  presence. Lindsey’s vocal talent with his rich deep voice sounded like King himself. Matching his performance was Lavida Thomas-Richardson whose chemistry with Mr. Lindsey was remarkable.

As Camae, she was certainly in awe of Dirking, but was not afraid to challenge some of the decisions that he made along on his journey as a spiritual leader. We last saw Mrs. Thomas-Richardson as a featured dancer in “God’s Trombones” on this very stage. She has a very interesting resume. Born in London, she grew up on St.Kitts, started the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and was Miss UVI in l992. She has had an interesting life as a mother, wife and family physician. (Yes, there is MD after her name.)

The excellent design of the motel room was by Darryl Reuben Hall, Edward Hall and Thomas Law. Light and sound by Stage Manager Joiakin Foster and Alvin O Mitchell.

We must confess we have not given you a complete story of this play.  There is a twist toward the end we have left out hoping you will have the opportunity to see this incisive and provocative show in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

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