Wednesday, April 23, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘The Mountaintop’ gives fictionalized glimpse into King’s last night

Martin Luther King Jr. (Beethovan Oden) and hotel worker Camae (ZZ Moor) share a light moment in Captial Stage's production of "The Mountaintop." Capital Stage/Courtesy photo

By
From page A9 | April 10, 2013 | Leave Comment

Check it out

What: “The Mountaintop”

Where: Capital Stage, 2215 J St., Sacramento

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through April 21

Tickets: $22-$35 general

Info: www.capstage.org

The setting is Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. The date is April 4, 1968. There is a storm raging outside.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has just given his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in support of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike and has returned to his motel room, exhausted, craving caffeine. He has sent Ralph Abernathy off to get some Pall Mall cigarettes for him.

He prepares to work on his speech for the next day, which will address “Why America is Going to Hell.”

Unbeknownst to King, it is his last night on Earth and it’s going to be a strange evening. The play imagines the events that might have taken place the night before King’s assassination.

This is King’s own particular garden of Gethsemane, written by playwright Katori Hall (who won the Olivier Award for this play), presented by Capital Stage, and directed by the multi-talented Anthony D’Juan, making his Capital Stage directorial debut (though familiar to Capital audiences from his on-stage performances).

It was important to Hall not to deify King.

“King changed the world, but he was not a deity. He was a man, a human being. So it was important to show him as such: vulnerable,” the playwright states.

Beethovan Oden creates a very human King. He’s tired. He’s coming down with a cold. He has smelly feet. He smokes too much. He’s caffeine-addicted. He lies to his wife. He’s disappointed at the turnout for his speech, afraid that his followers are tired of the fight … and he’s concerned about the continuing threats on his life and that of his family.

The threats have loomed so large that he mentioned them in his speech (“I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you…”) Paranoid, he obsessively paces back and forth, peeking through the curtains, checking tables, lamps, etc., for listening devices.

He calls the front desk for coffee, which is delivered by Camae (ZZ Moor), a maid at the hotel, who says she’s working her first night. She is awed by King and is at first coyly deferential, and then, as it appears there is chemistry between them, becomes flirty. She tries to leave several times, but, encouraged by King, continues to stay, sharing a cigarette (she has Pall Malls) and prompting King to confront his life, his past, his legacy and the future of his people.

Camae is just what King needs to relax. As she becomes more comfortable with him, she allows herself to be foul-mouthed and sassy and puts King at ease. With King’s reputation as a womanizer, it looks like this play is going in one direction, but then, as Camae’s secret becomes known, it takes a 180-degree turn and goes in a completely different direction.

Moor’s performance is spot on, with her accentuated Southern drawl. Her performance could easily descend to the cutesy but she stays in character, not caricature.

As the play moves forward and the focus of it shifts, it loses a bit of credibility and enters more of the fantasy realm, in stark contrast to the beginning. However, the finale, where King is able to see the results of his work, is masterful and impressive.

The set for this production is by Capital Stage co-founder Jonathan Williams, who obviously must have spent a lot of time in seedy motels in order to create one so perfectly. (I did wonder if the hem of the bedspread, askew on one of the beds, was deliberate or accidental.)

This is a 90-minute, no-intermission play, which is a good thing because to include a break in the middle would destroy the mood set throughout the play.

In his last speech, King said, “I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” One hopes that on his last night he really came to feel that.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

 
New mosaic mural reflects Peña family history

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

UC Davis biodigester hungers for food scraps

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Penalty decision looms in Winters homicide case

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

Hay bales burn east of Davis

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Woman killed by train ID’d

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Pro-Russian insurgents hold journalist captive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Fire damages Woodland home

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3

 
Register to vote by May 19

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sign up for enviro organizations during Earth Week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Bible fun featured at Parents’ Night Out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Davis businesswoman presides over conference

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Birch Lane sells garden plants, veggies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Team Blend hosts fundraiser for Nicaragua project

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A3

 
Davis Arts Center: See ceramics, join the Big Day of Giving

By Erie Vitiello | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Fire crews gather for joint training

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Odd Fellows host culinary benefit for nonprofit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

400 bikes go up for bids at UCD auction

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Sunder hosts campaign event for kids

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Church hosts discussion of mental health needs, services

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

UCD to host premiere of autism documentary

By Cory Golden | From Page: A4

 
UFC hears from two local historians

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Fundraiser benefits Oakley campaign

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
UCD professor to talk about new book

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Fly Fishers talk to focus on healthy streams, rivers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Train to become a weather spotter

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Learn survival skills at Cache Creek Preserve

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Veterans, internees may receive overdue diplomas

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

UC Davis conference showcases undergraduate research

By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Conservation District celebrates its stewardship efforts

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Slow Food tour showcases area’s young farmers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

 
.

Forum

Even a safe house needs boundaries

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
I support Sunder for board

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Will anyone notice?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
My votes reflect city values

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

 
A plea on the Bard’s birthday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
.

Sports

DHS thunders back to win an epic DVC volleyball match

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
DHS/Franklin I goes to the Blue Devil softballers

By Chris Saur | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Davis gets to Grant ace and rolls in DVC crucial

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Walchli is under par in another Devil victory

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Seniors send Blue Devil girls past Broncos in a lacrosse rout

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
 
Baseball roundup: Rangers rally to beat A’s in the ninth

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Sharks go up 3-0 with OT win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

 
.

Arts

 
Five Three Oh! featured at April Performers’ Circle

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Celebrate spring at I-House on Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Music, wine flow at Fourth Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Biscuits ‘n Honey will play at winery

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Catharine ‘Kay’ Lathrop

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6