• "The Mountaintop" starring Danielle Truitt and Larry Bates (Photo - I.C. Rapoport).

      “The Mountaintop” starring Danielle Truitt and Larry Bates (Photo – I.C. Rapoport).

      “The Mountaintop,” currently running at the Matrix Theater in Hollywood, is an imagining of what might have been going through Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mind as he tried to relax at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis and hone his speech set for the following day, April 3, 1968.

      By Carol Edger Germain

      Mountaintop billAs we all know, that was his last night on earth. I was very interested in this production, and was glad I had not read reviews of it’s original run with Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson so that I was unaware of the context and the dynamic ending. Those surprises were more powerful with no prior knowledge.

      Roger Guenveur Smith directs Larry Bates as MLK and Danielle Truitt as the maid in a creative take on MLK’s possible thoughts that “dark and stormy night” (literally and figuratively). He was discouraged about dwindling support, dealing with other negative issues arising with the times, and was determining how to impact the people he would be addressing the next day. I will not spoil the twist in the concept of the play, as part of the dynamic of the production is best discovered live.

      I must admit that I was a little frustrated during the first half of he play, as I was anxious to see the conversation get much deeper much quicker. In hindsight, I understand writer Katori Hall’s purpose in making the change more dramatic, but I do think the first half could have been much shorter and/or could have contained some more intense trajectories in the slowly developing light, flirtatious banter between the actors. The set was perfect, again especially in hindsight, and I liked the artistic effect of the imaginary props.

      mountaintopAlthough the play turned out to go in an entirely different direction than I was anticipating, I was completely absorbed by the second half, which, instead of a further exploration of MLK’s thoughts, was actually more of an homage to MLK’s legacy coupled with a montage of spoken word, music, and video which recounted many events that have happened since that fateful day in 1968 and was especially poignant because it is Black History Month.

      Although both actors’ performances were admirable, Ms. Truitt’s character offered far more opportunities for her to shine, and shine she did! Strong presence, many talents, I am definitely looking forward to seeing her in another production soon. Her presentation of the montage was riveting, and brought the audience to its feet at the end.

      The Mountaintop
      • Written by Katori Hall
      • Directed by Roger Guenveur Smith
      • Starring Larry Bates and Danielle Truitt
      • Produced by Joseph Stern
      • Set design by John Iacovelli; lighting design by José López; sound design and projections by Marc Anthony Thompson; costume design by Anastasia Pautova; props design by Bruce Dickinson and Ina Shumaker; production stage manager is Jennifer Palumbo.
      • Photos by Enci Box.
      The Matrix Theatre
      7657 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90046
      (west of Stanley Ave., between Fairfax and La Brea)

      Performances through April 10:
      • Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 20, 27; March 5, 12, 19, 26; April 2, 9 (dark Feb. 13)
      • Sundays at 3 p.m.: Feb. 21, 28; March 6, 13; 20, 27; April 3, 10
      • Sundays at 7 p.m.: Feb. 21, 28; March 6, 13; 20, 27; April 3*, 10 (no 7 p.m. performance on Jan. 31 or Feb. 7)
      • Mondays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 22, 29; March 14, 28; April 4* (dark 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 Monday, April 4 (the anniversary of the assassination).
      Tickets: $30
      • Pay-What-You-Can every Monday night.
      Purchase tickets here.

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