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Monday, September 16, 2013

"The Mountaintop" @ Portland Center Stage

My first exposure to "The Mountaintop" was an interview with Samuel L. Jackson, who played Martin Luther King in the Original Broadway Production. In the interview, Jackson referenced a small moment in the play in which King urinates, and that our collective view of King is of a man so revered that we are almost surprised that he too was subject to the elimination of bodily fluids.

Katori Hall's play is full of little revelations that might come as a bit of shock to those only familiar with the History Book King. Equally unsettling are the moments when we are reminded of our government's role in impeding the progress of The Civil Rights Movement. We like to think it was just a fight against hateful misguided citizens, and unjust laws in the Southern States, but we are shown this is false in a moment as brief as it is brilliant, when King unscrews his telephone receiver to check for bugs before he calls Room Service for a cup of coffee brought by a maid who is not who she seems on his final night on Earth, after his painfully prophetic "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech.

Rodney Hicks is up to the monumental task of the role he must play, giving us a King who is both stoic and vulnerable. Natalie Paul effortlessly imbues the character of Camae the maid with natural, easy charisma, as she draws out both sides of King's personality.

"The Mountaintop" is well-worth seeing for it's brief and penetrating look inside the life of an icon who was every bit as human and afraid as the rest of us.


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