Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Mountaintop

Quite possibly the worst play of the season on Broadway.  Quite possibly the best cast of the season on Broadway.  Katori Hall's new play is imaginative and entertaining, but not Broadway material.  The cast, the top notch duo of Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson, bring credibility to the marquee but fail to bring much credibility to the material.

In many ways, I walked out of the theater feeling "duped".  I thought I was going to see a deep, moving, and riveting play about one of the most influential civil rights leaders of the 1960's - maybe learn something, walk away moved, motivated, empowered and energized about the message of civil rights.   Turns out - despite all the marketing falsely hyping the play up to be such a work - that the play is a silly fantasy about what might have happened in his hotel room the night before MKL was assassinated.  What I expected was something powerful, a moving and passionate discussion of issues, ideas, and some insight to the movement.  What I got was a fairly accurate portrait of a normal, imperfect, flawed man.

Was I impressed by the tremendous performances - yes - mostly by the lovely Ms. Bassett.  Mr. Jackson, a powerhouse in his own right, was clearly directed to tone it down.  He played things cool, calm, un-impassioned, and quite frankly, boring.

Don't be fooled like I was.  The plot is silly and the made of the stuff a tabloid might publish as entertaining, but ultimately empty calories and meaningless.  If you want to see it - go in knowing you won't come out any wiser or empowered.   Mr. Jackson and Ms. Bassett are worth seeing.  I just wish the material they presented was a powerful as they are.