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You are here: Home Theatre Reviews & Features 2011-12 Reviews Broadway Review: THE MOUNTAINTOP
Friday, 21 October 2011 18:00

Broadway Review: THE MOUNTAINTOP

Written by
Samuel L. Jackson and Angella Bassett Samuel L. Jackson and Angella Bassett Photo: Joan Marcus

The Mountaintop, a new play by young playright, Katori Hall, is largely bubbly and fun with plenty of swearing and even a pillow-fight.  Therein lies the problem.  The play is not what I would label intellectually challenging.  When you get right down to it, we don't discover anything new about King beyond a few personal details (i.e. smelly feet and a taste for Pall Malls).  A great opportunity seems to have been lost here.

{module ad_left_body}The play won the Olivier Award in 2010 and may once again speak to the differing tastes in the English and American theatre audiences.  It takes place in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.  It is the evening before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The theatrical device used in the play can't be divulged.  We have been asked by the show's press agent not to reveal the major plot twist in the play.

An Academy Award winner for "What's Love Got to Do With It," Angela Bassett plays Camae, a maid who brings King coffee and decides to stay for a spell.  She giggles continuously at King as he flirts with her.  Samuel L. Jackson is good as King but is never asked to play a three-dimensional character.  Bassett walks away with the best scene of the evening, a rapid-fire monologue that is part Lin-Manuel Miranda and part Anna Deveare Smith.  This one brief scene is the most meat in the entire play.

David Gallo's scenic design on the surface seems plain, a simple hotel room, but at the end of the play the set transitions off-stage in one of the slickest scene changes I've seen in a long time.  His projections, a vortex of historical way-points, is powerful.

Kenny Leon has directed The Mountaintop with a light hand to match Hall’s mostly light script. He brought out great performances from both Bassett and Jackson.

If you were hoping for something substantial from The Mountaintop, you will be disappointed. You might wait for Moments with Dr. King, another new play about Dr. King currently making its way towards Broadway without a publicly announced timeline.

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Last modified on Friday, 21 October 2011 18:56