Where: The Kitchen Theatre-Ithaca, New York (417 W. State St.)
When: Oct. 11-25
“The Mountaintop,” written by Katori Hall and performed by The Kitchen Theatre company, tells a compelling fictional interpretation of Martin Luther King’s final moments in a small, dingy motel room before his assassination in 1968.
Only two actors performed on the intimate 99-seat black box stage, where Landon Woodson (Martin Luther King) and Angel Moore (Camae), successfully tackled the challenge of keeping the action of the story engaging, while solely interacting with each other on one single set.
Right from the get-go, both characters made grand entrances when entering into the motel room, and built tension from not only each other but the environment around them, the most important aspect of the performance that kept the story interesting and worth paying attention to.
Woodson bared all by stomping into the motel room — anxiously pacing around profusely, from the bed, to the telephone, to the bathroom — where he did not hesitate to use all of the resources available to him. He lay on one of the beds in defeat over an incomplete speech and picked up the phone every so often, both examples of instances that came full circle as he came to terms with the end of his life.
When Martin Luther King called room service, Moore’s grand entrance became an even more engaging performance.
Moore waltzed through with a large tea platter, a bright blue dress with yellow sashes, and a white apron to match her bright and upbeat personality. She brought an energy that captivated, from the way she poked fun at Martin Luther King’s values and did her own version of a Martin Luther King speech in the most believable African American southern accent, standing on one of the beds and wearing his jacket.
Moore’s maid outfit also stood out against the dark, brown mold of the motel room. The contrast against the average grey suit of Woodson’s business attire was yet another subtle detail that drew attention to the fact that these were two contrasting characters.
These subtle details gave just enough information to build into the twist of the story. For instance, Moore’s maid outfit and spunky attitude supported the plot twist without falling into cliché. The tension was slow and steady enough that both characters lead into the twist at just the right moment.
Woodson and Moore created the perfect chemistry to make each of their character’s emotional outbursts so real that it’s hard to believe both of them were just acting.
For The Kitchen Theatre’s 25th anniversary season, “The Mountaintop” proves to be an excellent addition to their repertoire, as it hypnotizes, enthralls and maintains interest for a one set, two-actor only show.