Walking with the King

MLK mugs for Camae's make-believe camera and we laugh as King does his version of Elvis. The images fly, pure poetry.

In Review

The Mountaintop

5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars - 'Outstanding - Starkie!'
Directed by Anthony J. Haney
Starring Adrian Roberts and Simone Missick
By Katori Hall
Review by

The Mountaintop - Theatre Works - Review
London/Broadway hit THE MOUNTAINTOP reimagines the events on the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Adrian Roberts).

Unlike other statues dotting the DC Mall, we know MLK – or at least think we do. The increasingly geriatric among us have memories, or at least memories of memories. There’s the annual replay about having dreams and being on mountaintops that confounds what memories we do have. And then there’s what we tell our children. At a Catholic school where I work, every year the librarian tells the children “he was just like Jesus.” Yawn. Despite the images and words, our knowledge shifts, slips away. He ossifies into a holiday. We know less and less.

Into this void, comes The Mountaintop, which debuted on Broadway, in 2011 with Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson (an improbable combination for these roles, if there ever was one). The TheatreWorks’ production of this work by Katori Hall will leave you variously stunned, raw, teary.  It functions as an evening in an unpredictable Gethsemane, including side-splittingly funny moments and a powerful video montage that’s the story of all our lives.  You thought you came here for a history lesson you already knew. Instead, you leave amazed at your own misassumptions and part of something bigger.

The effect of this play on the audience was not unlike that of The North Pool, also by TheatreWorks. Although different in many ways, both two-person shows relied on complex layering, slow revelation, twisting turns and stark surprises. Both firmly held the audience in their grasp in a way that theatre almost never does, gently releasing them only after the applause died away. While The Mountaintop was funnier, more charming and less immediate than The North Pool, the tension of both built so powerfully and insistently that the only release was in springing to your feet afterwards for a standing ovation.  You could spend a lifetime of theatre-going looking for experiences such as this. To have two such evenings delivered by TheatreWorks within a year or so of the other is nothing but astounding.

The Mountaintop - Theatre Works - Review
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Adrian Roberts) laughs with
Lorraine Motel maid Camae (Simone Missick).

This theatre magic was worked by Adrian Roberts, as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Simone Missick, as hotel maid Camae. Roberts bears a reasonable resemblance to MLK, and more importantly, carries himself like King. Missick, who like Roberts, has a long string of stage, film and TV creditors to her name, has such a luminous quality, that she could be an Afro-American Marilyn. The chemistry between these two, connecting them in life and death, is immediately immediately apparent. Their delight in each other only magnifies our delight on them. MLK mugs for Camae’s make-believe camera and we laugh as King does his version of Elvis. The images fly, pure poetry.

Bug check

Room 306

Stinky feet

April 4th

Lorraine Hotel

“Civil rights will kill you before those Pall Malls will…”

“Negro talk strikes faster than lightning.”

If you catch one play this year, The Mountaintop should be it.

Explore. Create. Live. Follow Stark Insider on Twitter and Facebook. Join our 9,000 subscribers who read SI on tablets and smartphones on Google Newsstand. Prefer video? Subscribe to 
Stark Insider on YouTube, the largest arts & travel channel in San Francisco.
Share with your friends

Previous articleNeo Cocoa: The Sweet Life of a Bay Area Chocolatier
Next articleAndroid Dilemma: HTC One or LG Nexus 4?
Cy spent the ‘80’s as a bench scientist, the tech boom doing intellectual property law, and the first decade of the millennium, aspiring to be the world’s oldest grad student at Stanford where she is interested in political martyrdom. Presently, she enjoys writing for Stark Insider and the SF Examiner, hanging out at Palo Alto Children's Theatre, and participating in various political activities. Democracy is not a spectator sport! Cy is a SFBATCC member.