Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 8, 2019

REVIEW: Majestic Theater, The Mountaintop

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through February 10, 2019
Konrad Rogowski

The Majestic Theater's current production of Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” directed by Gilbert McCauley, is an intriguing combination of fact, faith, and fantasy, based on the last hours of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life, set in room 306 of the Lorraine Motel.

Photo by Kait Rankins
This fictionalized account is a powerful two-person show, a showcase for the talents of Jamil A.C. Mangan as Dr. King, and Lynnette R. Freeman as Camae, a housekeeper at the motel, and director McCauley capitalizes on those talents, as both actors deftly portray a wide and genuine emotional spectrum. The play works on the concept of “what if …” in order to bring the audience closer to what Hall describes as: “…the man, not the myth…this extraordinary man – who is actually quiet ordinary.”

That humanity is reflected in the everyday trials of a man who must travel, who finds no toothbrush in his suitcase, has holes in his socks from marching, and orders a late-night cup of coffee. That simple action brings the spirited and disarming Camae to his door, and there begins the unexpected journey that shakes the core of Dr. King’s thoughts and values.

What starts as a casual interaction of social pleasantries between the two, begins to morph and grow into a series of stranger and more probing exchanges. Each of these interactions forces Dr. King to examine, question, and defend his actions, his motives, and his very faith. Who is this late-night visitor who troubles him so? Is she actually a housekeeper, an undercover spy, or even a temptress? 

Mangan plays the role of Dr. King with a down to earth authenticity, ranging from humor and optimism to languishing uncertainty over his legacy, while Freeman fills the stage with a thought-provoking mixture of street smarts and incisive questioning. Hall’s script takes her audience through all of these challenges with a gritty humanity and surprising humor that gives a fleeting and inspiring look into the dichotomy of greatness and self-doubt, and which brings an audience to its feet.