ETC’s “The Mountaintop” showscases excellent performances and effects

By: Sabrina Brown ~Editor-in-Chief~

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) did not disappoint in its production of Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop.”
The play is set on April 3, 1968, the night preceding the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The Mountaintop” explores another side of King, including scenes portraying him as a misogynist, adulterous snob.
When juxtaposed with the play’s discussion of him as a mar¬tyr, father and activist, the audience is given an incredibly human depiction of one of our country’s beloved heroes.
This timely production — running near the anniversary of King’s death — coupled an impressive script with an even more outstanding execution.
The two-person cast had the daunting task of holding an audi¬ence’s attention for an hour and 40 minutes without an intermission.
Gavin Lawrence (King) and Torie Wiggins (Carmae) proved themselves up to the task.
Carmae is Hall’s vision of who King may have spent his last night with: a feisty, opinionated and out-spoken woman with the mouth of a sailor who is not afraid to put King in his place, even if it involves smoking, drinking and cursing with a minister.
Wiggins’ transitions from a snarky, rebellious woman to an empathetic friend and back again were impeccable, and she subtly stole the show.
From lightly tugging on her skirt after making a racy comment to her telling proximity to King, her attention to detail aided in creating critical tension on the stage.
Lawrence’s emotional and character transitions proved to be less seamless.
His version of King was compelling and often humorous, but his emotional portrayal during the play’s rawest moments seemed, at times, insincere and lessened the resonance of many critical points of the play.

Though Lawrence’s emotional connection was at times a bit lacking, his powerful delivery of the play’s closing speech was hauntingly beautiful, leaving the audience with chills long past the cast’s final bow.
The visual and sound effects in “The Mountaintop,” however, were some of the more compel¬ling elements of the show.
It rained, snowed and stormed on stage throughout the play, and each weather-related scene was more impressive than the last.
This, combined with an astoundingly realistic set-design and powerful lighting, transfixed the audience from start to finish.
“The Mountaintop” runs through April 6 and is a performance you don’t want to miss.

Newswire Rating: