- One gets a good view on a mountaintop, but one is also quite
visible and vulnerable when one is in such an elevated
is easy to admire and even envy those who have achieved
success and celebrity, but there is always a price to pay. The
Milwaukee Rep’s Stiemke Theater has totally reconfigured
itself to accommodate its production of “The Mountaintop,”
one playwright’s fictional version of what Martin Luther
King Jr.’s last night may have been like before he was
cast consists of two people - King and a hotel maid who brings
him his requested cup of coffee. As it turns out, she provides
him with a couple of cigarettes and a lot of interesting
conversation. King’s allusion to his buddy, who is
supposedly out securing him a couple packs of cigarettes, is
really Ralph Abernathy, his frequent traveling companion,
friend and the man who tried to fill King’s shoes after he
was assassinated. They often stayed at the Lorraine Motel in
Memphis, the place where King was shot in April 1968, now a
monument to the civil rights movement.
playwright, Katori Hall, had always wanted to see King, but
her mother forbade her to go hear him speak at the Mason
Temple in Memphis because she thought the church might get
bombed. This play was Hall’s imagined meeting with a man she
had always admired, but never saw face to face.
is obviously fictional, but always fascinating. What are a
man’s thoughts when he knows he is powerful, he is
vulnerable, he is ambivalent about his mission and he knows he
is loved and hated by many?
of us know the story of King’s life, how he fought for the
civil rights of blacks, how he proposed nonviolence, like
Gandhi, as the most effective solution to the problem. But
there were other points of view raging on both sides at the
blacks, like Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, had alternate
strategies, just as some whites, who were strong believers in
segregation. There is always the potential for conflict and
violence when we are dealing with diametrically opposed points
loved the dialogue between these two characters, a historical
figure and one invented by the playwright. It is funny,
provocative and engaging.
the hotel maid, admired “the King,” but she also saw his
frailty as a human being, a characteristic we all share. She
baits him. She challenges him. She lets us see him as a scared
human, as full of doubts as any man. She is a bit of a mystery
herself, and unless you see the show, will remain so.
Bernard Calloway as King and Niklya Mathis as Camae both ace
their roles. The sound and visual effects created by Barry G.
Funderburg and Gina Scherr are impressive.
designer Jared Mewzzocchi gives us a daunting perspective on
what has happened since 1968 and how King’s dream has and
has not been realized. Unless one is a non-reactive dolt, this
production does provoke one’s emotions and thoughts.
by May Adrales, who also directed “Yellowman,” this is a
worthy accomplishment deserving of merit and support.
Mountaintop” runs through Nov. 4 at the Stiemke Theater, 108
W. Wells St., Milwaukee. For show times and tickets, call
414-224-9490 or visit www.milwaukeerep.com