Chicago Theatre Review
It is a Journey Up “The Mountaintop” at Court Theatre
By Lazlo Collins
“The Mountaintop” is a well-acted, sometimes surprising, and ultimately moving theater treat. The Court Theatre spares no expense for the Chicago premiere of this emotional mine filled journey of Martin Luther King Jr’s last hours.
Written by actress/writer Katori Hall, “The Mountaintop” delivers the eve of Martin Luther King’s assassination in bold delicious strokes; painting Dr. King in a more accessible light. Of course, Mr. King is an American dignitary, a Nobel Prize winner, and galvanizing political figure, whose virtuous church and family life shaped him as devoted saint. But like all men and women, behind closed doors, life’s day to day tasks can be challenging for those that have been moved toward exceptional lives in the public eye.
Martin Luther King Jr. is human after all. A man challenged by the day’s civil discourse and inequities. In “The Mountaintop”, Mr. King is a man who is tired and struggling. With his recent return to Memphis for what was hoped to be a peaceful footnote to an otherwise bloody beginning, he gave his last speech to bring attention to the deplorable conditions of the African American sanitation workers in Memphis.
It was noted in a few biographies after his death of his smoking, drinking, and womanizing. Although there have been many reports of Mr. King’s “human follies”; in this interpretation, his human side brings a new dimension to our fallen hero. His love of mission is never clearer, but the idea of one who may be too saintly for his startling introspection.
David Alan Anderson plays the good Dr. with a quiet strength. His understated approach to a man bigger than life is refreshing. He never goes into parody or impersonation with this caring interpretation. The plays surprises that unfold are marked by this actor wondrous on stage journey. He moves from a man whose influenced changed the world, to a man whose hearing his own childhood name brings him to tears.
In the role of “Carmae”, Lisa Beasley stuns and surprises as the motel maid who brings Mr. King his coffee and cigarettes. And I dare say a whole lot more. Ms. Beasley is brings energy and sass to this surprisingly in depth part. Her timing is right on target. She moves through the story with a divine ease. Ms. Beasley captivates the audience through her succession of mishaps and communications. This is a role which audiences will not be soon forgotten.
It would be startlingly remiss if I did not mention, without giving too much away, of the importance and accuracy of the set design. This set design for “The Mountaintop”, is magnificent! Scott Davis masterfully captures the needs for this surprising journey while making sure the actors space is grounded in reality. The result is as well-crafted as it is emotionally satisfying.
Ron OJ Parson directs this piece with a well-crafted eye and a passion for the material. He has an eye for fun details. He has guided these two wonderful performances to their full potential. In his notes, he dedicates his performance to the many leaders who gave their lives so we may enjoy the rights we have today. He has obviously been inspired by his own journey and infused careful exploration into this fantastical piece.
“The Mountaintop” is a play that should add to your wish list. This Laurence Olivier Best New Play winner will challenge your perception of hero, and move you to places you may not have been expecting. It may not be the best written of plays, but its messages are fast and furious.
“The Mountaintop” continues at the Court Theatre in Hyde Park through 13 Oct. 2013. For tickets call 773-753-4472 or at www.CourtTheatre.org
For more information on this and other shows please visit Theatre in Chicago at www.theatreinchicago.com