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Jane Enkin

Jane Enkin Reviews RMTC's The Mountain Top

by Jane Enkin March 1, 20201

The  Mountain Top

By Katori Hall

Directed by Audrey Dwyer

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre online February 26 – March 14

Reviewed by Jane Enkin

RMTC’s terrific production of The Mountain Top is a filmed version of the stage play, mounted on the mainstage. Ray Strachan plays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cherissa Richards is Camae, a character created by the playwright.

The action takes place on April 3, 1968, the night before the assassination of Dr. King in Memphis. Tennessee.  Dr. King rushes into his hotel room from the pouring rain. We see his frustration as he checks for FBI bugs in the room, we notice his rumpled clothes and the holes in his socks. He calls for a cup of coffee from room service and the chatty young maid, Camae, brings it, then lingers. 

Although the play explores important themes, director Audrey Dwyer highlights every light-hearted moment that appears. Flirtation begins early in the action, as Dr. King convinces the maid to stay and have a cigarette with him, which they both know is against the rules. The two characters joke and tease between the serious exchanges they share. Camae quips “Civil rights will kill you before those cigarettes do,” and Dr. King responds, “I like your sense of humour. It’s like mine – morbid.” At times the two of them break into gales of uncontrollable laughter.

Dr. King is working on a new speech, and recalls others he has made, allowing us to hear his powerful preaching, and Strachan’s vocal flexibility and intensity are thrilling to hear.  Camae also has her moment of fiery preaching, imagining what she would say if she had the audience that Dr. King could draw. She challenges him on his most basic value, non-violence. They argue over whether what Camae calls “walking” – “marching” insists Dr. King --- could ever be effective.

Both performances are intense and moving.  The friendship that grows between the characters is convincing and tender.  Richards shows Camae revelling in her beauty, oozing confidence. Strachan brings out every nuance of the complex emotional man Hall has created in this play.

Take the time to download the program – it is full of information and some sad and beautiful quotations: “We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

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