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BWW Review: THE MOUNTAINTOP at Susquehanna Stage

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BWW Review: THE MOUNTAINTOP at Susquehanna Stage

Review by Jason Davis

Surprise! Surprise! Any production based on the life of Martin Luther King is bound to be deep, thought provoking, and moving. The Mountaintop by Katori Hall was no exception. Adding to the drama and emotion, however, was the unexpected humor in Hall's dialogue. This production had the audience bursting with laughter and tears.

In this fictional telling of the night before King is assassinated, Hall provides a glimpse into the man behind the speeches. Not just the great orator, Hall portrays a flawed human struggling with his choices, his fears, and his life's mission. What at first promises to be heavy and dramatic soon erupts into a flirty hilarious banter. The story begins as Dr. King (Jeremy R. Patterson) returns to his modest room at the Lorraine Motel. Exhausted and under the weather, King orders coffee from room service and is soon joined by Camae (Pilisa Nicolette Mackey) a hotel employee. King, entertained by Camae, asks her to stay starting a conversation and relationship that drives the story.

With a cast of two, there is Little Room for error. In addition to finding two skilled actors, a chemistry is needed between them. Fortunately for the audience, director Jim Johnson found that balance. This is made more remarkable when one considers the character and presence that an actor must have to play the role of Martin Luther King. Mackey's portrayal of Camae, however, easily matched (and at time out shown) that of Patterson's King. The scripted witty repartee between the two characters is well performed by these two actors whose comedic timing and rapid-fire pace caused the audience to laugh out loud (included myself). Both actors brought the funny and the drama when it was called for. Their humor and banter did not detract from Patterson's ability to emulate some of King's mannerism and portray a serious man dealing with serious issues. Nor did Mackey struggle portraying an often raunchy and loud character who could also be sensitive and compassionate.

The show had a few areas for growth and some clearly exceptional moments. Some absolute stand outs are the telephone scenes. Without giving anything away, I will just say that some of the funniest, well performed, and best moments of the show where done over the phone. While this twosome at times fell off their pace, the only issue with this community production came at the end of the show. The script creates an awkward transition that is amplified by the set design. Though a muddled set change creates a bit of confusion, it does not detract from the impact of the show's final moments.

Overall, as a first-time visitor to the Marietta Center for the Arts, I was blown away by the quality of the actors, the professionalism of the staff, and the ability to produce such a high- quality show without a professional theater budget. The Mountaintop continues through February 24th. For more information about this and other shows at the Marietta Center for the Arts, visit their website at

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From This Author Rich Mehrenberg