The Reimagining of an American Hero
Review of The Mountaintop at ArtsWest by Griffin Scott-Rifer
As I took my seat in the ArtsWest’s beautiful theater I was immediately was entranced by the set of The Mountaintop. Rain falling down windows transported me to another time and place. If I was at all distracted before, as soon as the lights dimmed in the theater, my mind was nowhere but right there in the Lorraine Motel with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the angel who comes to visit him the night before he is to die.
The lights come up on the well-known American hero, played by Reginald Andre Jackson. The Mountaintop begins as a raucous period comedy, complete with clever repartee between the two characters. But then about halfway through, it switches to an entrancing drama about the meaning of being a hero.
Jackson’s performance, as he becomes Dr. King down to the finest details of speech patterns and mannerisms, lends itself to the reimagining of the American hero. The story of Dr. King is familiar, but that of him as a person is not so much so. Throughout The Mountaintop, King becomes seen as he rarely has been before — as a person. He is shown not just as a hero, but as a relatable human being as well.
Brianne A. Hill’s acting as the woman who comes to visit Dr. King on the eve of his death is likewise impeccable. Hill is an amazing actress, who not only acts with her body and words, but with her eyes as well. Her eyes have the mesmerizing effect of truly telling what she is conveying.
When the play climaxes with a multimedia passage about the history of the civil rights movement since the life of Dr. King, the reimagined history lesson is complete. Viewing The Mountaintop is essential because it transports the audience back to a time most didn’t experience firsthand but rather only learned about in school. Before your eyes, the history lesson transforms into the reality that it is. We know the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is academically engaging, but in The Mountaintop, it engages the soul as well.
Sidenote: I would like to acknowledge the beautiful space that ArtsWest inhabits. I arrived about 20 minutes early to pick up my tickets and read the play’s program. Normally, I would have sat in some corner of the lobby to read these papers, but this was not true at ArtsWest. Since it doubles as an art gallery, I instead spent my extra time at the venue walking through the halls and viewing art. The art was amazing, and as I walked into the theater I wished I had arrived earlier to observe more of it.
September 11 - October 5