Playwright Katori Hall explores beyond the powerful, yet cryptic words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech, often called, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” in her play “The Mountaintop,” currently running at Round House Theatre until Nov. 5.
Set at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg skillfully guided the two actors through a production that hits the soul with descriptions of America during “the movement” and parallels today’s human relations. Also, there are interactions between the two lead characters that keep the audience wondering in their seats.
Acting together are Ro Boddie as King and Renea S. Brown, who was Camae, a housekeeper at the Lorraine Hotel. As the only actors on stage in a 90-minute play without an intermission, that is a lot of dialog for the characters. Boddie and Brown smoothly went through their paces with their acting. In an exclusive Washington Informer interview, Sonnenberg discussed how she directed the actors.
“It has a lot to do with building trust,” Sonnenberg said. “It’s like a tennis match. Sometimes, somebody scores and sometimes, somebody else scores. It is about keeping the ball in the air.”
A Friendship Begins: ‘The Mountaintop’ Plot
The play begins with King returning to his hotel from the Mason Temple, where he delivered his famous final speech. He is “amped up” about supporting the Memphis garbage workers and expects to put in an all-nighter to finish writing a speech. He calls room service for coffee, his fuel for the night. When he hangs up the phone, he shifts into security mode and begins checking the phone and around the room for surveillance devices that may have been planted in his room.
When Camae arrives with his coffee, she is astonished to see it is Dr. King. She is starstruck but easily engages in banter that includes many funny lines. Camae does not hold back her cursing and being critical of King’s approach to “the movement.” She shows him that she is smart whenever King comes across as elitist. Boddie and Brown are believable and natural in their roles. Observers are surprised by a well-executed turn in “The Mountaintop.” Audiences are forced to examine decisions about life and death.
“The thing I concentrated on most was making sure it was Black and female,” said Sonnenberg about interpreting Hall’s words.
Playwright Hall did her research for her mind-expanding “what if” tale. Beyond the “imagining” premise of this play, there are true facts that many may not have known. Her words are impactful.
Catch your breath at the end of this play, after climbing to “The Mountaintop” at the Round House Theatre until Nov. 5.
For ticket information, go to roundhousetheatre.org or call 240-644-1100.
Source: Washington Informer