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TheRootDC
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Posted at 11:09 AM ET, 11/29/2011

‘The Mountaintop’ reviewed

If you are traveling north before the end of January you would be remiss not to stop and see The Mountaintop . Now playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York City, The Mountaintop, wondrously written by Katori Hall and directed by Kenny Leon, invites audiences on a theatrical journey to laugh, reflect and reexamine.

The Mountaintop is an imagined interaction between Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr., played by Samuel L. Jackson and a maid, Camae, portrayed by Angela Bassett at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 3, 1968.
Actor Samuel Jackson arrives at the 23rd American Cinematheque Award benefit gala honoring him in Beverly Hills, Calif., Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. (Chris Pizzello - ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The two meet on the eve of his assassination when he returns to his motel room after giving his famous and perhaps prophetic last speech in which he declared that he’d been to the mountaintop.

The small and musty motel room is in direct contrast to the large themes and fresh take on the slain civil rights leader that are explored in the script by Hall. Seldom seen are such dissections of King as a person and not a pure and political figure.

Peering into the room of the motel, the audience relates to a man navigating and coming to terms with his own morality and mortality. While it is an imagined exchange between two people it offers real questions and thoughts. Hall challenges.

The script comes to life as Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett shine. Jackson is outstanding as King dbecause he never attempts to play the icon that Dr. King became but the man that King was.

Bassett was without flaw. Her power as an actress is best exhibited when King asks Camae what she would tell congregations across the country about the next steps necessary in the fight for civil rights. 

The audience hangs on her every word. She is the fire to Jackson’s cool. They make a perfect pair on stage.

You leave the theater with a different sense of what King, the man, may have been like. The audience leaves feeling glad that they’ve been to The Mountaintop too. This Broadway production runs through January 22, 2012.

Clarence J. Fluker is a renaissance man living a life of politics and prose in Washington, D.C. He edits Substance & Style D.C, a blog about culture and community. You can follow him on Twitter at @cjfluker.

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