Kevin-Hanchard as Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Mountaintop.

Kevin Hanchard as Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Mountaintop.


Something special has arrived to our city.

Katori Hall’s award-winning play, The Mountaintop, is the dramatic anchor to Theatre Calgary’s line-up for their 2013/2014 season and what a heavyweight it is. Set the night before his assassination at the Lorraine Motel, the play provides a fictionalized take on how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s (Kevin Hanchard) last night on this earth unfolded. But, this is no “one-man-show.” Dr. King is challenged, poked at and peeled apart by a charmingly feisty maid, Camae (Beryl Bain), who begrudgingly brings him coffee while a vicious thunderstorm rages outside. What follows is an emotionally charged journey of introspection of not only Dr. King’s legacy, but what made him truly human like the rest of us.

Though this journey takes place in just one hotel room, the production designers were able to bring the set to life through their ingenious usage of lighting, sound and special effects. Most notable is the spontaneous claps of thunder which roar throughout the theatre, acting as morbid foreshadowing to the sound of Dr. King’s death. As well, the changes in lighting play well to extol the multiple moods within the play, be it celestial when talk moves to themes of legacy near the end, or hallucinatory, such as when Camae brings forth Dr. King’s greatest fears.

These expressions of Dr. King’s fears, passions, joys and vices are what the play aims to bring to the surface. The Mountaintop‘s goal is to demythologize the story of Dr. King while not belittling the man he was. Not only does it succeed in this regard, it triumphs in its portrayal of a humanist tale which will leave one hoping that maybe one day they, like Dr. King, will arrive at the mountaintop and witness the promised land as well.

The Mountaintop will be showing until April 20, from Tuesday to Sunday, at the Max Bell Theatre. Tickets range from $35 to $95.

By Rory O’Dwyer
Photo: Trudie Lee

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