There’s Hope on ‘The Mountaintop’

The Mountaintop_4

Donte Plunkett as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Catie Zaleski as Camae

On the night before his death, a mysterious woman helps Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. face his mortality and the future of his cause.  This is The Mountaintop by Katori Hall and playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Ms Hall has written one of the most uniquely constructed scripts I have seen in quite a spell.  Whether by coincidence or design, the script is actually built as if it is a trek up and down a mountain.  It is a long, sometimes laborious, climb to the summit.  But once the peak is reached, the play really begins to pop and rapidly races down to the finale.  While the first half of the play could be a little dry, the second half provides some compelling viewpoints on racial harmony, faith, mortality, how far we’ve come as a people in overcoming our hatred and biases, and how much further we still have to climb.

Denise Chapman has provided an admirable and nuanced piece of direction to the production.  She has staged the play well, keeping her 2 actors animated with a constant moving about of King’s hotel room.  She also has a good instinct for maximizing the play’s twists and surprises and really makes those moments stand out and sing.  Ms Chapman has also guided her thespians to a pair of solid performances.

Donte Plunkett gives a worthy performance as Martin Luther King, Jr.  His features not only bear a remarkable similarity to the real King, but he also managed to tap into a great deal of his essence.  Plunkett exudes a confidence, authority, and gentleness suiting the great Civil Rights leader.  But he also shows a quiet sense of humor and a tragic vulnerability especially when he has a conversation with God about his mortality.  I was also impressed with how well Plunkett carried off a less than savory aspect of King’s personality, his reported weakness for women, with his charming and eyeballing of Camae.

Catie Zaleski’s take on Camae is a master class in putting on faces.  It’s hard to know what to make of Camae at first.  She seems to be so many things.  She readily flirts with Dr. King.  She curses like a sailor and then apologizes for cursing in front of the famed Baptist minister.  She can be very blue collar and seemingly uneducated in one moment, then start spitting out college level words and improvising a Kingesque speech in the next.  At one moment, she seems fully aligned with King’s mission, then diametrically opposed in the next.

When the truth behind this chameleon like behavior is revealed, Ms Zaleski nails the tragic hopefulness of a character who is looking to expiate her own sins.

I thought the performances could be further enhanced with a brisker pace and a bit more energy to kick off the show.  Volume and diction were also off at a couple of early points in the show.

I was exceptionally impressed with the show’s technical elements.  Jim Othuse has designed a clean and comfortable motel room at the Lorraine Motel.  John Gibilisco’s constant claps of thunder well communicated the oncoming storm in King’s life.  I loved Herman Montero’s use of lighting, especially the starlight at the play’s conclusion.  Amanda Fehlner’s costuming captured the essence of the well-dressed man of God and the blue collar housekeeper.

It takes a little patience to get to the play’s core, but it is worth the wait as it touches on themes of race and equality that are still important today.  We have grown quite a bit as a people, but there is still a lot of growing to do.

The Mountaintop plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through May 27.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $36 for adults and $22 for students.  For tickets, contact the Playhouse at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  Due to strong language and some mature themes, this show is not recommended for children.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Come to “The Mountaintop” at OCP

The Mountaintop_4

Donte Plunkett as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Catie Zaleski as Camae

Omaha, Neb.— The Mountaintop, which is a fictional telling of  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,’s final night when he returned to his room at the Lorraine Motel, will run May 4 – 27, 2018 in the Howard Drew Theatre at Omaha Community Playhouse.


An Olivier Award-winning play of historical fiction, The Mountaintop imagines the final night in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After giving his speech, “The Mountaintop,” Dr. King returns to his room at the Lorraine Motel. When a mysterious woman with a secret agenda pays a visit to Dr. King, the resulting confrontation imaginatively explores destiny, legacy and mortality.
Disclaimer: Contains dialogue related to racial tension and adult language.

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4. The events in this timely and powerful story take place the night before his death, 50 years ago on April 3, 1968 after Dr. King gave his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”

Production:    The Mountaintop

Credits:          By Katori Hall

Director:         Denise Chapman

Cast

Donte Plunkett as Martin Luther King, Jr.

Catie Zaleski as Carnae

Show dates:   May 4 – 27, 2018; Thursdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, 2 p.m.

Tickets:  At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets start at $24 for adults and $18 for students. Ticket prices are subject to change based on performance date, seat location and ticket demand. Call the OCP box office for current prices. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $20 for adults and $14 for students.

Sponsors:      Friend of the Playhouse, The Reader (media sponsor)

Location:        Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard Drew Theatre (6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE 68132)

OCP Announces 93rd Season

BILLY MCGUIGAN’S ROCK TWIST
Billy McGuigan and the Steve Gomez Band
By Rave On Productions
July 12 – 23, 2017 | Hawks Mainstage (Weds. – Sun.)

World Premiere

See Billy McGuigan as you’ve never seen him before. Classic rock tunes with a big band twist; big band standards with a rock and roll twist. Backed by a full horn section and an all-star lineup of Omaha’s finest musicians, Billy’s brand new show will have Playhouse audiences rocking like never before. Frank Sinatra? Check. The Beatles? Check. Harry Connick, Jr.? Check. Billy Joel? Check! Fresh re-arrangements of rock and jazz standards performed as only Billy can. It’s rock with a twist. The world premiere is coming to the Omaha Playhouse in July 2017.

EMINENT DOMAIN
By Laura Leininger-Campbell
Directed by Amy Lane
Aug. 25 – Sept. 17, 2017 | Howard Drew (Thurs. – Sun.)

World Premiere
Does oil run thicker than blood? Or will a pipeline splitting the prairie tear a family apart? A 2016 Eugene O’Neil National Playwrights Conference finalist, originally conceived for Shelterbelt Theatre’s Before the Boards series, Eminent Domain tells a relevant story of a Nebraska family farm threatened by the construction of an oil pipeline and the ensuing conflict that emerges within. On the surface, Eminent Domain exposes the hard-fought battle between Nebraska farmers and corporate energy. Dig deeper and the greater struggle is revealed: the fight to preserve our Heartland’s farms and the livelihood of the people who live here. Our most crucial resource is not just the land we are privileged to attend with cracked and calloused hands—it is our kin, our clan and our heritage. Join us for this world premiere of an Omaha playwright’s work. Disclaimer: Contains adult language.

MAMMA MIA!
Music and Lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and some songs with Stig Anderson | Book by Catherine Johnson | Based on the songs of ABBA
Directed by Jeff Horger
Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, 2017 | Hawks Mainstage (Weds. – Sun.)

This smash-hit musical featuring the songs of ABBA is one of the top 10 longest-running Broadway musicals. Mamma Mia! is a delightful tale of love, laughter and friendship. Donna is slowly warming up to the notion of her daughter Sophie’s impending wedding when her life is upended by the unexpected arrival of three former beaus, all possible candidates to walk Sophie down the aisle. With all your favorite ABBA hits such as “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance On Me,” “Honey, Honey” and more, find out why Mamma Mia! has become an audience favorite! Disclaimer: Contains spandex, strobe lights and disco dancing.

STUPID F@#%ING BIRD
By Aaron Posner
A sort-of adapted from The Seagull by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Suzanne Withem
Oct. 13 – Nov. 12, 2017 | Howard Drew (Thurs. – Sun.)

This “sort-of adaptation” of The Seagull by Anton Chekhov tells a story in which an aspiring young director battles against the art created by his mother’s generation. A young actress competes with an aging Hollywood star for the affections of a renowned novelist and everyone discovers just how complicated life, art and success can be. This irreverent, modern and very funny remix of a classic play will incite you to consider how art, love and revolution fuel your own pursuit of happiness.
Disclaimer: Contains adult language and sexuality.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Special Event)
By Charles Dickens | Adapted by Charles Jones | Musical orchestration by John J. Bennett
Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre
Nov. 17 – Dec. 23, 2017 | Hawks Mainstage (Weds. 7:00 p.m., Thurs. – Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 2:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.)

It just isn’t Christmas without A Christmas Carol. Experience Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition as Ebenezer Scrooge takes us on a life-changing journey filled with lovely costumes, exquisite music, beautifully crafted sets and special effects second to none. Perfect for the whole family!

YESTERDAY AND TODAY – 10th Anniversary (Special Event)
An Interactive Beatles Experience Featuring Billy McGuigan
©2007 By Rave On Productions

Nov. 24 – Dec. 31, 2017 | Howard Drew (Thurs. – Sun. eve)

Billy McGuigan and his brothers are back for the 10th consecutive year at Omaha Community Playhouse! This all-request Beatles tribute show will have you dancing in the aisles and singing along to every song. Share your stories and relive your memories with your favorite Beatles songs. No two shows are the same, and every show is a guaranteed exhilarating time!

RIPCORD
By David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by Kimberly Faith Hickman
Jan. 19 – Feb. 11, 2018 | Hawks Mainstage (Weds. – Sun.)

Pranks and practical jokes abound when cantankerous Abby and chipper Marilyn are forced to share the nicest room at the Bristol Place Senior Living Facility. As Abby attempts to get rid of her unwanted new roommate, a series of bets soon escalates into a hilarious game of one-upmanship as the two women try every trick in the book to claim their space in the apartment and their place in the world. Ripcord is a hilarious tale with a lot of heart.
Disclaimer: Contains adult language spoken by a cantankerous old lady.

PARADE
Book by Alfred Uhry  |  Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown  |  Co-Conceived and Directed on Broadway by Harold Prince
Directed by Jeff Horger
Feb. 9 – March 11, 2018 | Howard Drew (Thurs. – Sun.)

Parade is the Tony Award-winning musical based around the trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish man wrongfully accused of murder in Marietta, Georgia in 1913. Religious intolerance, political injustice and racial tensions are already prevalent in this small Southern town, and when reporters begin to sensationalize the case, the likelihood of a fair trial is put in jeopardy. With a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and music by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, The Bridges Of Madison County), this true story reveals the beauty of the human condition, even when faced with tragedy. Disclaimer: Contains language and situations related to racial tension and mob violence.

Roald Dahl’s JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH
Words and Music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul | Book by Timothy Allen McDonald | Based
on the book by Roald Dahl
Directed by Kimberly Faith Hickman
March 2 – March 25, 2018 | Hawks Mainstage (Weds. – Sun.)

James and the Giant Peach is a brand-new musical guaranteed to mesmerize theatregoers of all ages. A compelling story by beloved author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda) and music composed by the award-winning team of Pasek & Paul (La La Land, A Christmas Story, television’s Smash), a young orphan named James accidentally drops magic crystals by an old peach tree. Strange things start to happen and James soon discovers a world of magic and adventure full of friendly insects and learns that love and family can be found in unexpected places.

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
Based on the Screenplay by Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard  |  Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall  |  Music by Paddy Cunneen  |  Based on the Academy Award-winning film starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes
Directed by Jeff Horger
April 13 – May 6, 2018 | Hawks Mainstage (Weds. – Sun.)

Based on the Academy Award-winning film by Tom Stoppard and adapted by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), Shakespeare in Love is a love letter to the stage and a celebration of theatre, music and human connection. While the government threatens to close all theaters, young Will Shakespeare suffers from writer’s block, as his muse Viola disguises herself as a man to pursue her dreams of being an actor. Amidst mistaken identities, ruthless scheming, backstage theatrics and a misbehaving dog, Will’s love for Viola quickly blossoms and inspires him to write his greatest masterpiece.
Disclaimer: Contains scenes of sexuality.

THE MOUNTAINTOP
By Katori Hall
Directed by Denise Chapman
May 4 – May 27, 2018 | Howard Drew (Thurs. – Sun.)

An Olivier Award-winning play of historical fiction, The Mountaintop imagines the final night in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After giving his speech, “The Mountaintop,” Dr. King returns to his room at the Lorraine Motel. When a mysterious woman with a secret agenda pays a visit to Dr. King, the resulting confrontation imaginatively explores destiny, legacy and mortality.
Disclaimer: Contains dialogue related to racial tension and adult language.

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green | Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed | By special arrangement with Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Inc. | Music published by EMI, all rights administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC | Based on the Academy Award-nominated MGM film starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds
Directed by Kimberly Faith Hickman
June 1 – June 24, 2018 | Hawks Mainstage (Weds. – Sun.)

The beloved movie musical Singin’ in the Rain comes to life on stage with charm, humor and stormy weather that has made it an enduring classic. This tale of a famous on-screen couple from the silent films who prepare to transition to the age of “talking pictures” combines the best of Hollywood and Broadway with music that will keep you smiling, dances that will keep your toes tapping and special effects that will take your breath away. Songs such as “Make ‘Em Laugh,” “Fit as a Fiddle,” “Good Mornin’” and of course “Singin’ in the Rain” will whisk you away to a simpler time.