Because we think that African-American history should be part of our history all year long, we’re not the biggest fans of it being confined to one month through the device of Black History Month. Yet Jubilee Theatre has scored a coup by bringing The Mountaintop to Fort Worth, and the fact that this play is running during Black History Month isn’t lost on us.
Katori Hall’s drama takes place in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis the day before Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination there, as the weary civil-rights activist returns from his speech at a sanitation worker’s strike (“I have been to the mountaintop”) and orders a cup of room-service coffee, which is brought to him by a new chambermaid. What follows starts out as a realistic two-character piece but eventually becomes a magic-realist look at the flow of history.
The play debuted in London in 2009 and then received its American debut two years later with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett in the roles. The 32-year-old Hall is a Memphis native whose mother grew up one block away from the Lorraine Motel, and the accolades that this play received put its author on the map. This bracing work’s North Texas premiere promises to be one of the theatrical highlights of the season.