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July 20, 2019

6/26/2019 2:49:00 PM
'The Mountaintop'
A Play Review by Peggy Tarr

I strongly recommend seeing “The Mountaintop,” a fictionalized account of a meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Camae, a maid in the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. The play, written by Katori Hall, takes place on April 3, 1968.

The play is a chance encounter between Dr. King and a maid at the Lorraine Hotel, who prompts him to confront his life, his legacy and the future of his people.

That night, Dr. King delivered what is now called his “mountaintop speech” at the Mason Temple – the headquarters of Church of God in Christ – in Memphis.

In concluding his speech, Dr. King said, “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

“And I don’t mind.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!

“And so I’m happy, tonight.

“I’m not worried about anything.

“I’m not fearing any man!

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

The next day, April 4, Dr. King was assassinated as he stood on a balcony of the Lorraine Hotel.

Under the direction of Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre’s Artistic Director Tim Rhoze, Jelani Pitcher (Dr. King) and Shadanna Patterson (Camae) give powerful and thought-provoking performances. The four – the playwright, the two actors and the director – have the ability to infuse humor into a serious situation and bring it to the audience without a hitch. Masterfully done also is the use of sound effects and lighting, which add to the excitement and depth of the play.

Mr. Rhoze says in his director’s notes, “In this story, set on the eve of Dr. King’s murder, Ms. Hall unabashedly reveals the complexity and simplicity of the man who wrestled with America’s ugliest of societal cancers, as well as his own demons.”

I urge play-goers to see and experience “The Mountaintop.” 

“The Mountaintop” is the first in Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre’s summer season. It runs through June 30 at the theater in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St.

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