Sunday, April 14, 2013


Martin Luther King Jr. inspired hundreds of thousands of people with his charismatic speeches and drive to fight racial inequality. Arena Stage's production of resident playwright Katori Hall's THE MOUNTAINTOP didn't have me wanting to climb to the mountaintop when the curtain closed.

Katori Hall's inventive play, which won an Olivier Award in London and played on Broadway with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr.'s last night before his assassination in a motel room in Memphis. When a newly employed maid pays a late-night visit to Dr. King's room, their back and forth explores what MLK truly stood for and how he could prepare himself for the impending tragedy.

While I thought the play was unique and interesting, I was taken out of the experience by an uncharismatic MLK. Bowman Wright, who portrayed Dr. King, skillfully portrayed the human elements of the Civil Rights leader, but when he needed to be passionate and show the side of MLK that inspired thousands, I was left uninspired. The actor didn't seem to connect with the character as I had hoped he would.

Joaquina Kalukango, the brilliant actress who portrayed the maid Camae, found every comedic note with ease and was far and away the highlight of the production. While this was great, it was unexpected in a play about Martin Luther King.

The set was very plain, a 1960's motel room, that was structured as a box set. It wasn't revolutionary but it was exactly what this simple play needed. The plain set served as a perfect foil for the excellent projections that were innovative and brought this production to a "magical" level.

Overall, the play had extremely strong production values that were brought down by a sub-par performance and average direction.

1 comment:

  1. wow, the concept of this play sounds really interesting -- building a lot of expectation! For that reason, I'm sure it could fall hard if it did not produce a good show. It's too bad the center role didn't carry it well