The Mountaintop

Oct 9, ’11 - Bernard Jacobs Theatre

stars:  Samuel L. Jackson;  Angela Bassett

This play is billed as a re-imagining of Martin Luther King’s last night before he was assassinated.  It is not conjecture about reality, but the playwright’s fantasy. 

This is a two person play, and what two actors could you possibly want more on your stage than Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett?  And they deliver, especially Ms. Bassett.  Perhaps that is because we compare Jackson’s portrayal to the persona we are so familiar with, while the one created from whole cloth by Ms. Bassett can be perceived without preconception.

Dr. King is portrayed as a man, not a god, although god does make an appearance.  Not corporeally, of course.

Bassett’s character, Camae, is a salty-mouthed chambermaid, not exactly what she seems.  Dr. King is a man with feelings, faults, deep commitment and premonition of his impending assassination.  King, the man, is frightened by each clap of thunder on this stormy night.  It even makes him wheeze.

He is attracted to Camae, although the main intimacy they share is smoking from the same cigarette.

King, speaking sadly about white men says:  “They hate so easily and we love too much.”  When Camae catches herself in random philosophy she admits she is speaking nonsense.  “Nonsense coming out of a pretty woman’s mouth is not nonsense,” says Dr. King.  “It’s poetry.”

After the drama, the message one takes away is ‘pass on the baton’.  Yes, Dr. King did his part;  yes Barack Obama is a black United States president;  yes other people of color have stood tall in the passage of history;  but each person must do what he and she can.  Take the baton and pass it on.

Angela Bassett’s performance is a tour de force.  The Mountaintop runs until January 16 with Mr. Jackson, not sure if it continues without him.  Check it out.  Playing on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.  A unique Broadway experience, well worth your attention.