Some believe that those who suspect death is near can often feel it approaching, and in Invictus Theatre’s rendition of Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. senses his end is coming.
This fictional and subversive play, directed by Aaron Reese Boseman, imagines the evening after King (Mikha’el Amin) has delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon, the night before his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. In his motel room, King meets Camae (Ny’ajai Ellison), who delivers his room service order; what begins as a flirtatious chat between them transforms into a momentous encounter when Camae divulges her divine purpose.
Through 3/19: Mon and Thu-Sat 7 PM, Sun 3 PM, Reginald Vaughn Theater, 1106 W. Thorndale, invictustheatreco.com, $35 (students/seniors $30)
Hall tackles a lot of themes in these last motel moments, and Boseman’s production humanizes the martyrdom of King all the while discussing themes like rhetoric, racial inequality, and the war on poverty. On opening night, Ellison’s performance as the charming, confident Camae stole the show, making the audience laugh with her witty comebacks and feel saddened by her more vulnerable confessions.
While Amin’s King seemed overdramatized at times, Amin and Ellison’s energy felt matched, and it’s no surprise considering the two have worked together before. (They played a married couple in Invictus’s 2020 production of A Raisin in the Sun.) A solemn and humbling moment comes in King’s final address when he begs the audience to take up the baton he fears he has dropped.
The ending teleports the crowd through Black American history following King’s death and concludes with Barack Obama’s presidency, which prompted me to reflect on the years to come that Hall’s King didn’t know about. What would he think then?