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Magnificent 'Mountaintop' comes to Pollard

Donald Jordan, Artistic Director of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre Company and W. Jerome Stevenson, Artistic Director of the Pollard Theatre Company discovered a wonderful new play by the young playwright, Katori Hall. They knew they had to present this to central Oklahoma audiences and plotted to produce “The Mountaintop” jointly. Collaborating with Jay Prock, Artistic Director of Poteet Theatre at St. Luke’s Church, the three theatres slotted “The Mountaintop” into the 2015 season. “The Mountaintop” spent two weeks with City-Rep in the Freede Theatre at the Civic Center Music Hall, and is now playing through February 28, 2015 at The Pollard Theatre in Guthrie.

This production is directed by Rene Moreno and stars W. Jerome Stevenson as Martin Luther King Jr. and Junene K. as Camae. The Pollard production is exactly the same as the City-Rep production—same cast, crew, set, props and direction. Scenic designer Ben Hall re-created a typical motel room from the 1960’s and while the sets are the very same pieces in both theatres, the angles are slightly different. The Pollard Theatre stage is at a lower and therefore more intimate level. Moreno’s direction translates equally in both theatres.

The cast consists of only two people. Both actors represent their characters faithfully. W. Jerome Stevenson is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Junene K. is the fictional Camae, a motel employee where Dr. King stays in Memphis. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and he shared that dream with a nation. Stevenson shows us the man behind the dream and his characterization gives that dream the power it deserves. In doing great justice to the role, Stevenson is more than an actor playing King on the stage; he also becomes a vehicle of inspiration. We have come a long way struggling to overcome racial prejudice--the President of the United States is a black man. But we still must conquer mutual distrust and despair. Stevenson’s performance gives the audience the power to do exactly that in honor of Dr. King. On his own turf, Stevenson states that the ‘sense of unity’ flowing between audience and cast is nearly overwhelming.

Junene K. is the actress who brings the fictional but very realistic persona of Camae to life. She is the hotel maid who happens to carry the Pall Mall cigarettes Dr. King craves in her pocket. Camae is a diamond in the rough with a heart of pure gold. She is inspired by Dr. King, but not so impressed that she can’t tell it like it is. Junene K. is a profoundly astute and professional actress. Her portrayal of Camae commands attention through perfect timing, inflection and interpretation.

Director Rene Moreno clearly demonstrates wisdom as well as sensitivity in leading this excellent cast. Hall’s play is interpreted with truth and humor, integrity and sorrow, pride and hope. Acknowledging King’s birthday and celebrating black history month “The Mountaintop” is entertaining and timely. Moreover, this is a show that needs to be seen. And yes, the period is the 1960’s when everybody smoked. Both actors handle their e-cigarettes proficiently and no smoke will obscure vision.

“The Mountaintop” is now playing at the Pollard Theatre in downtown Guthrie, Oklahoma through February 28th. For tickets call 405-282-2800 or visit Hats off to the Pollard, City-Rep and Poteet theatres for their collaboration in bringing this show to Oklahoma audiences.

Elizabeth Hurd

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