A review by Erin Fair
Larry Bates and Danielle Truitt. Photos by I C Rapoport
Katori Hall's two-person drama The Mountaintop imagines the final night of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. King (Larry Bates) alone in an innocuous motel room waits for his associate, Ralph Abernathy, to deliver a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes. During his wait he works on a new speech temporarily titled "Why America Is Going to Hell." A domestic, Camae (Danielle Truitt), brings him coffee and just happens to have Pall Malls and a hip flask. Over smokes and whiskey, they discuss civil rights, theology, sin, sorrow and the weight of history for the next ninety minutes.
Tired, sick, and besieged by the habitual threats on his life, Dr. King is disappointed in the turnout for his last speech. Then enters Camae, who brings a spirited approach to Dr. King's revitalization as well as coffee and Pall Malls. The new companions discuss their callings and jobs, and on how both take a toll on the mind, body, and soul.
This play teeters on a rather Forest Gump-ian theme. When Forest gets up one day and starts to run, no direction, no reason, he just ran, he encouraged people. Dr. King was the same way. He states in the play that all he wanted to do was be a preacher to his congregation; he never wanted to be the father of the civil rights movement. The echoes of "why me" are strung throughout the play in both characters motivations and dilemmas. Nevertheless, like his fictional, cinematic, counterpart it was predestined for him to inspire the population.
The Mountaintop reminds us that although Dr. King is revered as a martyr, he was just a man. This play delivers on performances, set design, and direction. While the dialogue is delivered with a joyous ferocity, it does at time feel didactic. Ms. Truitt's take on the sassy black woman archetype is much more than meets the eye, and Mr. Bates as Dr. King is outstanding. The dynamic duo play off each other well, and since the Dr. King of this play was a reactionary character, his receptivity propels the story forward. With a marriage of Selma meets Hamlet, it might not be to everyone's tastes but if you are amongst those who want to indulge "
The Mountain Top" is well worth the climb.
The Mountaintop continues
through April 10, 2016. Performances are scheduled
Saturdays at 8 pm;
Sundays at 3 pm and 7 p.m.; and
8 p.m. (no 7 p.m. performance on Feb. 7; dark on Saturday, Feb. 13 and Mondays, Feb. 8, March 7 and March 21).
Panel discussions with special guests will take place following the evening performance on Sunday,
April 3 (the anniversary of the night prior to the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when the play takes place) and after the performance on
April 4 (the anniversary of the assassination).
All tickets are $30.
00, except Mondays which are
Matrix Theatre is located at
7657 Melrose Avenue,
west of Stanley Ave., between Fairfax and La Brea). For reservations and information, call
323-852-1445 or go to