The Mountaintop Review - The Hours Before Martin Luther King's Assassination

The setting is around midnight on April 3, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Lightning and thunder shake the building as Martin Luther King ponders his latest and - although he doesn’t know it - his last speech to be delivered the next day. He’s tired but can’t sleep; and so he orders coffee from room service. Enter Camae, the beautiful and flirtatious hotel maid, who offers Dr. King coffee, cigarettes, and much more than he expected.


Danielle Truitt and Larry Bates - Photo by I.C. Rapoport

Playwright Katori Hall has fashioned her vision of Dr. King’s final hours on earth to produce a gripping, intriguing tale of what might have happened. If magic were real. Hall contrasts the earthy, working class Camae with the saintly King - who turns out to be a little more human than we expect. Camae drinks, smokes, and curses like a guy - and then apologizes to Pastor King with a big smile. Perhaps she can offer him some solace as he faces a future of unremitting struggle. Hall manages to construct a very human Dr. King, a man with weaknesses, fears, and vulnerabilities that he fights to overcome.


Larry Bates and Danielle Truitt - Photo by I.C. Rapoport

Larry Bates (Dr. King) and Danielle Truit (Camae) brilliantly portray two people who are so different - but perhaps not as different as they appear. These are two actors who know how to deliver a chuckle or a tear to an audience and do so with talented ease. Especially when “speechifying,” Bates has ably replicated the cadence and quality of Dr. King’s delivery.


Danielle Truitt and Larry Bates - Photo by I.C. Rapoport

Director Roger Guenveur Smith has taken a fanciful story and made it very moving and genuine. John Iacovelli’s staging is simple so as not to distract from the dialogue. Jose Lopez’s lighting and Marc Anthony Thompson’s sound add to the fury of the storm outside these walls – both physically and metaphorically. But all of these “aids” must be considered auxiliary to the power of Hall’s words. She has created a real human being in Martin Luther King, warts and all. And these two talented actors have fleshed out the words to create two living, breathing individuals. This is a must-see production - not only for Black History Month, but for all time.


Larry Bates and Dianielle Truitt - Photo by I.C. Rapoport

THE MOUNTAINTOP runs through April 10, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. Saturdays and Mondays and at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Matrix Theatre is located at 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Tickets are $30. For reservations, call 323-852-1445 or go online at

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