BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
Opening on Thursday at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett co-star in “The Mountaintop,” a new play regarding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the last night of his life in 1968.
Reviewers have been requested by the management not to divulge the fantastic plot twist in “The Mountaintop.” This makes assessing Katori Hall’s two-character play quite a challenge, but let’s try.
It’s a dark and stormy April night in Memphis where King is staying in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel while championing workers during a bitter sanitation strike. His room service order for coffee is brought up by Camae, who is an excitable soul new on the job and tickled to meet the great man.
They get to talking. He bums cigarettes from her. They share a few swigs from her flask. They talk more.
The beautiful Camae is depicted as a saucy down-home gal who says things like “Here I is just a’cussin’ all up in front of you, Dr. Kang. I cuss worser than a sailor with the clap. Oooo, God gone get me!”
Some serious reflections about the civil rights struggle are mixed with this pleasant fiction. There is also a pillow fight.
The big twist in the story comes halfway through the 95-minute play. And at that point the show lost me entirely. I just sat there, thinking, “No, really?”
Perhaps some viewers will go along with the rest, which culminates in a multi-media coda regarding the next 43 years of the American experience as King delivers passages from his “Mountaintop” speech.
Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett are fine actors who animate their characters very believably.