With a tsunami of musicals dominating the Broadway scene in New York City, it is quite a relief to have a wonderful comedy such as The Mountaintop. This delightful show, with only 2 actors wearing just one costume each, and employing one set pays homage to the classic and Neo-classic value of Unity of Time, Place, and Action.
The Mountaintop takes its name from a popular title given to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech, “I’ve been to the Mountaintop.” King gave this speech in support of black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee who were being paid less than their white counterparts. The play opens with Dr. Martin Luther King, portrayed by veteran actor Samuel L. Jackson, in his hotel room at The Lorraine Hotel the night after he gave this speech, and follows the events up to the point of his assassination. King is working on his next speech, and realizing it’s going to be a long tiresome night, decides to order some coffee from room service.
Enter Camae, the fast-talking exuberant hotel maid who loves to cuss. Actress Angela Basset does a phenomenal job at bringing this character to life. She brightens up the room and helps Dr. King cut loose; ergo, we get to see the more human side of this iconic character. Through the course of their interactions, Dr. King is forced to examine his life’s work and what kind of legacy he will leave behind.
I was pleasantly surprised by both of the performances of the cast members. Their chemistry was indelibly charming; so much so I wished I could be onstage to join in on the fun. There was a perfect combination or snarky comments, flirtatious remarks, and direct, pace changing one-liners. It was not the serious, political statement I was expecting it to be. In fact, it was quite the opposite, taking an everyday chance meeting and turning it into an extremely enjoyable evening of entertainment. It was a concise show that felt complete and left you with that, “Huh” feeling. Just the way I like it.
I would recommend The Mountaintop for anyone looking to see two experienced actors practicing their craft of bringing characters to life in a natural and exhilarating manner. Coming in a 1 hour and 40 minutes, it’s a tightly-knit show which focuses on how a Broadway show can be simple, and still effectively powerful and humorous.
The Mountaintop is playing through January 22nd, 2012. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets.