WESTON — Weston Playhouse Theatre Company is wrapping up its 2021 comeback stage season with a production of Katori Hall’s popular and acclaimed play, “The Mountaintop,” to be directed by Raz Golden — who made another Vermont appearance this summer at Dorset.
The play aspires to take the audience on a climb similar to its title. The story is set on the evening of April 3, 1968, in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
There, after having earlier delivered his final speech, known today as “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” the Rev. King (Neil Dawson) orders room service — a request fulfilled by a smooth-talking, Pall Mall-smoking, Irish Whisky flask-toting maid, Camae (Maechi Aharanwa).
But Camae is more than just a maid; she is a recently ascended angel — a Black woman recently attacked and killed by a white man — who has been handed a tough first assignment by God to guide Dr. King through his death the next day, and bring him home to his eternal residence in Heaven.
Camae also has the power to show King the future, call God on the hotel phone, and just about every other whimsical device one can imagine, like dropping an April snow in Memphis. Whimsy, perhaps, is the best word to describe the method by which Ms. Hall has her characters ascend “The Mountaintop.”
Artistic director Susanna Gellert has had “The Mountaintop” on her mind for some time, and said it “asks us each to consider our role in society.”
“I first encountered ‘The Mountaintop’ in 2012, just after its Broadway premiere,” Gellert said recently while watching rehearsals. “A decade ago, the play felt like a blast of pure oxygen: enlivening and surprising, shocking and exhilarating. Now, preparing for this revival, I am struck by how fresh and thought-provoking [its] ideas and perspectives remain.”
The play is truly a “classic in the making,” Gellert said, 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 actors, agreed with Gellert, adding that as a director he sees himself “obsessed with how we remember history and how the act of remembrance shapes the figure itself.”
“Our production investigates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King both as a human man and as an historical object,” Golden said. “And we explore how Camae, a visitor from afar, forces the two concepts to collide.”
Golden is joined by a crew of industry stalwarts: scenic design by Frank J. Oliva, costume design by April M. Hickman, lighting design by Austin Boyle, sound design by Carsen Joenk, projections design by Stefania Bulbarella and production stage management by Melissa Richter.
In all, Gellert concluded by saying she was thrilled to be able to finally bring “the Mountaintop” to Weston, and that the play itself goes far beyond history into a visceral place that will strike a chord with audiences:
“[This story] asks us to dream that we all, however small we may think ourselves, have the power to do good in the world.”
“The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall, and directed by Raz Golden, will run from today to Oct. 23 at Weston Playhouse’s Walker Farm, 705 Main St., Weston. Socially distanced indoor pod seating, and masks (before during and after performance) required for fully vaccinated (proof required) audience members. Tickets: call the box office at 802-824-5288 or visit westonplayhouse.org