In association with the Shaw Festival, Obsidian Theatre graces their upcoming season with the emotional journey of Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop. Directed by founding Artistic Director Philip Akin, this fictional narrative portrays the last night of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Kevin Hanchard) and his stay at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Eventually accompanied by the motel maid, Camae (Alana Hibbert), audiences are immersed in a whirlwind of sentiment and empathy. Invoking controversy from the original Broadway premiere, the plot is constructed as an imaginative depiction of what happened on the eve prior to Dr. King’s assassination. Without spoiling the tremendously captivating narrative, audiences will be caught by surprise and ultimate fascination.
The premise behind Hall’s construction of the play revolves around the deconstruction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall presents her version of the iconic figure by unpacking the perception of his legacy, showing the mortal behind the pulpit – a stressed out, lung-hacking, hysterical human being. Through this, Hanchard delivers a suitable performance where the ongoing threat of assassination lurks, creating the unfortunate reality of intense racial sentiment and agitation from the period.
While the play asks many questions throughout, there is one answer to be certain of: Alana Hibbert. Straight from her bold and memorable entrance, Hibbert gives a stellar depiction of Camae – an average, lower class, 1960s African-American female living amidst racial degradation. Hibbert’s performance is both emphatic and enchanting, providing a fictional character that is charming, funny and fully determined. In this wildly imagined world, there is an unexpected plot twist in which Hibbert succeeds in tugging our emotional heartstrings and propelling the production forward.
As for the design, the set depicts a glamorous 1960s motel grunge. As the narrative is intricately constructed, the freedom of design remains constricted to the time period. Set and Costume Designer Judith Bowden is hereby heralded for the amazing technical feats accomplished and embedded within Room 306. The view of the motel sign is both irksome and fascinating. Equally paralleled with the set are Bowden’s costume designs that assist to highlight the period we are encased within. Kevin Lamotte’s lighting design is outstanding in limiting the focus to the physical space of the room, creating an engaged entrapment.
We see civil unrest portrayed through both Dr. King and Camae, however, Hibbert presents us with direct input from the masses rather than the lectern. We see further factions within the African-American community divided by class, thereby coming to emphasize part of the production’s crucial message. Through this, Camae becomes essential to the imagined deconstruction of Dr. King’s inner humanity. The relationship between Dr. King and Camae endure moments of both endearment and heated tension. This relationship not only compliments Dr. King’s deconstruction, but is central to the ultimate success of The Mountaintop.
The Mountaintop is presented by Obsidian Theatre in association with the Shaw Festival. The production runs to October 19th in the Aki Studio Theatre at Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas Street East. For tickets, please visit www.NativeEarth.com or the box office at 416-531-1402.