OFFBEAT: Court's 'Mountaintop' stunning stage telling of MLK

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-09-17T00:00:00Z 2015-06-23T15:31:13Z OFFBEAT: Court's 'Mountaintop' stunning stage telling of MLKBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

To be in the same Memphis hotel room as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the final hours before his assassination on April 4 is the remarkable window of time only his close friend and colleague Rev. Ralph David Abernathy shared. Abernathy died at age 64 in 1990.

And at the time of Dr. King's death, an autopsy revealed the 39-year-old's heart was closer to that of a 60-year-old, due to the stress and strain of his civil rights mission.

Court Theatre Artistic Director Charles Newell and Executive Director Stephen J. Albert are presenting "The Mountaintop," written by Katori Hall, and directed by Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson, playing now until Oct. 6 at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play, the subsequent 2012 Broadway production starred Angela Bassett and Samuel L Jackson.

It is set in the eve of the assassination, as a weary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., played masterfully here by David Alan Anderson, has returned to his lonely hotel room in Memphis.

As a stormy night ensues, he begins work on his next speech, but is interrupted by a young hotel maid named Camae, as played here by the talented and perfectly timed young actress Lisa Beasley, who just happens to be from Gary.

This moving, passionate and also entertaining 95-minute, no intermission play, has a dose of light-hearted moments. It's the ideal production to open Court Theatre's 59th season.

With just this two-person cast, Anderson and Beasley hold audiences in a perfectly balanced spell of enlightenment, for a group shared experience to encounter the past, present and future.

The creative team includes Scott Davis, who provides a scenic design that is beyond compare, while Melissa Torchia captures costume design and Sarah Hughey is the lighting designer with Victoria Delorio as sound designer.

With this difficult role, Anderson, who hails from Indianapolis, is making his Court Theatre debut. Beasley is also making her Court Theatre debut, but Times readers will likely recognize her from my previous reviews of her work at Black Ensemble Theatre, where she has starred in "The Marvin Gaye Story," "One Name Only," "The Other Cinderella" and "From Doo Wop to Hip Hop."

This play offers many twists, turns and surprises, and I guarantee anyone who invests in a ticket will not be disappointed. The final scene is awe-inspiring and breathtaking.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturdays along with a 3 p.m. Saturday matinee and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are $45 to $65 at the Box Office or (773) 753-4472 or Student and senior discounts available. Groups of 10 or more can purchase discounted tickets by calling Kate Vangeloff at (773) 834-3243.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

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