WESTON – Weston Playhouse Theater Company wraps up its 2021 comeback season with a production of the popular and acclaimed Katori Hall play ‘The Mountaintop’, directed by Raz Golden – which made another Vermont appearance this summer in Dorset .
The piece aspires to take the audience on an ascent similar to its title. The story takes place on the evening of April 3, 1968, in room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
There, after giving his final speech, known today as “I Went to the Top of the Mountain,” Reverend King (Neil Dawson) orders room service – a request met by an Irish smoker from Pall Mall who speaks well. Whiskey chambermaid, Camae (Maechi Aharanwa).
But Camae is more than just a servant; this is a recently ascended angel – a black woman recently attacked and killed by a white man – who God has given a difficult first mission to guide Dr. King through his death the next day and bring him home to his eternal residence in Paradise.
Camae also has the power to show King the future, call God on the hotel phone and just about any other fancy device you can imagine, like bringing an April snowfall in Memphis. . Fantasy, perhaps, is the best word to describe the method by which Ms. Hall climbs her characters “The Mountaintop”.
Artistic Director Susanna Gellert has had “The Mountaintop” in mind for some time and said that it “asks each of us to consider our role in society.”
“I first met ‘The Mountaintop’ in 2012, right after it premiered on Broadway,” Gellert said recently while watching rehearsals. “Ten years ago the play was like a breath of pure oxygen: invigorating and surprising, shocking and uplifting. Now as I prepare for this awakening I am struck by the freshness and the reflection [its] ideas and perspectives remain.
The play is truly a “classic in the making,” said Gellert, and a story that “will stay with us and teach us, time and time again, generation after generation.”
Golden, after a fruitful day of working with his cast, agreed with Gellert, adding that as a director he saw himself “obsessed with how we remember history and how the act of remembering shapes the figure itself “.
“Our production investigates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King both as a man and as an object of history,” Golden said. “And we explore how Camae, a visitor from afar, forces the two concepts to collide.”
Golden is joined by a team of industry mainstays: stage design by Frank J. Oliva, costume design by April M. Hickman, lighting design by Austin Boyle, sound design by Carsen Joenk, projection design by Stefania Bulbarella and production management by Melissa Richter.
Overall, Gellert concluded by saying that she was thrilled to finally be able to bring ‘the top of the mountain’ to Weston, and that the play itself goes way beyond the story in a visceral place that will affect the public:
“[This story] asks us to dream that all of us, no matter how small we may think, have the power to do good in the world.
“The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall, and directed by Raz Golden, will take place today through October 23 at Walker Farm in Weston Playhouse, 705 Main St., Weston. Indoor pod seats and masks (before during and after the performance) required for fully vaccinated audience members (proof required). Tickets: call the box office at 802-824-5288 or visit westonplayhouse.org
Telly Halkias is a nationally award-winning freelance journalist. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @TellyHalkias