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'Mountaintop' shows Dr. King as everyday man

Play separates the man from the legend

Carla St.Louis | 3/13/2014, 9 a.m.
Myxolydia Tyler and Shawn Hamilton in CenterStage's production of The Montaintop by Katori Hall, directed byKwame Kwei-Armah.

The play, "Mountaintop" portrays Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. not as the prominent Civil Rights activist but as an everyday man whose susceptible to imperfections and vulnerability.

"Unlike other plays about MLK that generally focus on chronicling Dr. King’s life and accomplishments through a lot of narratives and speeches, this play is pure drama with interactive dialogue between people," said Jackson, a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University who plays the part of Dr. King. "It is quite theatrical, realistic and full of surprises--it humanizes and de-mystifies Dr. King. It shows him as a real man unlike anything we’ve ever seen before [...] It will entertain, shock, and challenge the audience."Originally performed

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Katori Hall

on Broadway starring Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson, Mountaintop focuses on a fictional conversation between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a maid named Camae in his hotel room the night before he was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Their conversation forces King to confront his past and the future of the Black community.

"Mountaintop," directed by Joseph Adler, will run from March 15 through April 13 at GableStage at the Biltmore located at 1200 Anastasia Avenue in Coral Gables. It features actors Karen Stephens and C. Anthony Jackson in its South Floridian premiere.

Stephens, a theater graduate from the University of Florida who plays Camae, said she was drawn to the play by its premise and the inherent themes of equality and intrusion from the federal government.

"I thought it was an interesting premise," said Stephens who admires actors like Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll and Ossie Davis."[...] The play is a fantastical view at the human frailty of a leader who was allowed little room in his tough life. But in the play, Dr. King is the complete man-strong, fallible, afraid, determined, resigned and exhausted while still demonstrating a deep devotion to the cause of equality and justice. We all know who the public figure was; this play gives us a view of what the private man may have been."

"I’ve always revered MLK from my childhood," said Jackson who admires actors like James Earl Jones, Don Cheadle and Myketi Williamson. "As I grew older the more I learned about him and what he stood for the more I admired him [. . .] I [have] performed some of his famous and seldom heard speeches over the years, but never had I read or seen any script that depicted him in this way as a human being."

"The Mountaintop" is written by Katori Hall and was awarded the Oliver Best New Play Award in 2010.

For ticket pricing and schedules, log on to http://gablestage.org.