Martin Luther King Jr.'s transcendent final speech, given at the Mason Temple in Memphis on April 3, 1968, is one of the towering pinnacles of oratory in English -- or any language. It's as if Dr. King knew deep down that his time was nigh (by that point he'd already received countless death threats) but was determined to be the instrument of what he believed was God's will in the world. The next day he was gunned down by an assassin's bullets on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Katori Hall's play The Mountaintop
is set in Dr. King's lodgings at the Lorraine, Room 306. It fictionalizes King's last night alive as a surreal encounter between the world-famous reverend and a crass, foul-mouthed maid on her very first night on duty at the motel. The great civil-rights leader, so often (and justly) deified and lionized, is portrayed as flawed and utterly human; the young maid draws the flesh-and-blood man out from behind the concealing veil of myth and legend. You can experience the Black Rep's staging of this award-winning drama at 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday (February 14 through March 9) at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square; 314-534-3810 or www.theblackrep.org
). Tickets are $35 to $47.
Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 14. Continues through March 9, 2013