Rosebud Theatre’s production of Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop explores many deep themes and issues within the United States during the mid to late Sixties – the Civil Rights Movement. The play is about Martin Luther King Jr. during his last moments on Earth as he explores and reflects on all the issues of America at the time and himself.
The play is a one act, which (for those of you who don’t know) is a play without an intermission, so kind of like a movie. The play is an 80 minute existential journey driven by two amazing and award winning leads: Patricia Cerra and Ray Strachan as Martin Luther King Jr. himself. It discusses many themes, such as morality, mortality, and what we mean in the grand scheme of things. But if you want more of a specific summary, I like what they’ve already written in their promotional material:
“An angel posing as a maid is sent to the hotel room of Martin Luther King Jr. on the night before his assassination. What transpires is an inspiring look at the frailties and triumphs of two people who have been to the “mountaintop””
We are presented with a much different side of Martin Luther King Jr., as man who is flawed and human (and controlled by vices) all the while projecting him to a level of sainthood and godliness. But there is a lot of warmth and humour present too, which I honestly wasn’t expecting. I will say too that what I saw was fairly standard theatre for myself. Not that this is a bad thing or anything, it’s just that I’ve been involved in one way or another in university and improv theatre, so I can say that I’ve seen, been in, and read much more weird and sometimes upsetting stuff. But if you’re the person whose only experience is seeing a Broadway musical or a high school production of maybe the same musical, then you might be in for a surprise and hopefully a rewarding one.
The play explicitly expresses its themes and content, and the production uses all the staging and Brechtian techniques in the book. The set design by designer T. Erin Gruber and her assistant Elise CM Jason was very well done and really helped covey that stairway between our world and the afterlife, and Joel Braun brought their’s and awarding winning director Morris Ertman’s ideas to life on a beautifully constructed stage. I loved Ray’s performance, he’s always engaging in one way or another, and Patricia was electric, especially during her “preach/rap” moment. The lighting design highlighted everything they did and just helped us, the audience, get more immersed in their world. Any sort of issues I had with the production, honestly if any, are more about the narrative – which, for anyone who isn’t familiar with Canadian theatre and about stage productions, it’s considered taboo to deviate in any way from the words on the page of the script.
I went to the opening night showing in the town of Rosebud, just 25 minutes south of Drumheller. It was a dinner theatre showing and the dinner was very good. Soup appetizer followed by a buffet, which included a salad bar, sliced roast, and desert table – all very nice. I listened to some lovely pre-show music from two vocalists Anja Johnsson and Holly Langmead, who was also on ukulele.
I arrived early at 5:45 and finished dinner early too so I had some time to explore the little town. I went to a couple artisan shops and the Akokiniskway Gallery’s “Rosebud’s Own” art gallery, which had portrait works from painters Rebbekah Ogden, Randall Wiebe, and Julian Love. The show started at 8:00 pm and after the show there was a discussion period to meet with the cast and the crew, which unfortunately I couldn’t stick around for. For people passionate or curious about theatre though, these sort of opening night Q&A’s are great for meeting and socializing, and a great opportunity to learn about what the cast and crew are doing and how you can get involved, in (again) a very casual and social environment.
Worth mentioning too is the content of the play does have some mature themes and language present. The show runs from September 13th to October 19th and has Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday matinee shows and Friday and Saturday evening shows.
I look forward for Rosebud Theatre’s upcoming production of A Christmas Story in November and December.