Monday Smiles – 11/25/2013

little houseWhen we purchased our Little House here in San Tan Valley, AZ, the plan was to live in Anaheim Hills in the summer and here in the winter once I retired.   Even though these days I’m mostly retired … and most work I have could be done anywhere … that has not come to pass.   The Little House remains our abode for week or two visits with our grandkids, which by itself makes it a good investment.  But we have not developed the social life … either in terms of friends or entertainment venues … that we are used to in California.  But Sunday night, we set off with the only new friends we’ve made here … our next door neighbors, John and Carolyn … for the one reliable live theater we’ve found in the Phoenix area, the Herberger Theater Center.  We found several restaurants within walking distance of the theater online and the plan was to choose when we got there.   We located one Italian restaurant on my smartphone navigator and walked there, only to find it no longer in business, which is a danger of finding restaurants on Yelp.   We walked across the street to Renaissance Hotel that I recalled having a restaurant … but their restaurant was closed on Sunday.  Really?   We asked the concierge who suggested Seamus McCaffery’s, which I thought he said was a steakhouse so we set out again.


from Seamus McCaffery’s website

I should have guessed that Seamus McCaffery’s was an Irish Bar and Pub and on a Sunday Night, it did not look especially inviting.  There were three foul smelling horses tied out front and an assortment of peculiar characters drinking at the sidewalk tables.  Still, we needed to eat so in we went.   The bar was doing a brisk business but the pub was not.   That Irish favorite, Jimi Hendrix, was thundering over the speaker system.  It looked to me like what we always called an Alchy Bar but I suppose that’s politically incorrect given the ethnic nature of the establishment.  On the other hand, the Irish (yes, I am part) have never been shy about their love of alcohol.   McCaffery’s turned out to serve decent food and was a good place to sit and talk until the theater doors opened.

The play we saw was The Mountaintop, a very fictionalized account of the night before Martin Luther King’s assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN.   The play has an interesting history in that it was an award-wining smash hit in London but was savaged by critics in New York, even though the New York production starred Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett.  Dr. King has returned from delivering his Mountaintop speech  to the Sanitation Workers Union in which he intimates that he may not live to see his efforts change the world.  The Mountaintop considers the possibility that hephnxmountaintop had a premonition of his assassination.   The only other character onstage besides King (James T. Alfred) is Carae (Erika LaVonn), a housekeeper at the motel who delivers room service coffee and stays for an extended dialog with him about life, temptation, family, civil rights and the effectiveness of nonviolence as a means of change.   We see King at his most human, smoking, drinking and cursing … and flirting with the charismatic Carae.  We see his arrogance, his doubts and his fears as he cringes at each clap of thunder, fearing it is gunfire.  Gradually, we suspect that Carae is no ordinary maid, a suspicion confirmed by a surprising metaphysical turn of events about two-thirds of the way though the play.  The ability to accept this turn after almost an hour of drama-comedy centering on actual events is probably the key to liking the play.   I found it worth the effort, because the finale speaks (literally) to the universality of King’s message and to our individual responsibility to carry  it forward.  One reviewer called the play King’s Gethsemane, referring Jesus’ night alone in the garden before his crucifixion.   It is apt in that by showing Dr. King at his most human, his words and accomplishments become not those of an icon or myth, but of a man, giving us each permission to emulate his ideals in our own way.

James T. Alfred and Erika LaVonn were excellent as Dr. King and Carae with a wonderfully staged production that captured both the dinginess of the Memphis motel room and the universal grandeur of the finale, which features an imagined speech by Dr. King to the audience.  It was an enjoyable, though-provoking evening with good friends and good theater.  It’s Monday – I’m smiling

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