Review by Tulis McCall
21 Jan 2010
If this were a really, really good show, you would leave the theatre and shoot yourself because the loss of a man like Martin Luther King. Lucky for you this is not a really, really good show. Craig Allen Edwards has given himself a towering task – how to tell the story of King. Even in the best situations this would be a dodgy proposition. Turning fact into art is a nearly impossible task because the writer keeps on the path of “this is what really happened,” which is not at all why we go to the theatre. Reality is what is outside – it is imagation in flight that the theatre holds for us.
We are brought to King’s hotel room on April 3, 1968, 24 hours before he is shot. Initially he is on the phone with – well, we never find out – and there is a lot of exposition that is not too badly handled. Then without blinking an eye, Edwards begins to talk to us. The fourth wall disappears and we are seen. That’s what I mean about one-person shows. As an actor you have to figure out to whom your talking, and you have to let your audience know as you go along.
It would almost have been better to keep King on the phone. As it is, he begins to explain to us what his hopes and dreams are, reminisces about Coretta and Ralph Abernathy, various incidences in his life that shaped him. A lot of this I found interesting – but good theatre it really is not. And the only reason we care is because time is running out on this man, because a great life is not enough to make great drama.
One of the largest drawbacks here is Edwards. In many ways he is a clown – in the good sense. His humor and timing are really quite good, but he buries that, or tries to, in this deeply, deeply serious portrait laced with foreboding. When the humor comes out Edwards is relaxed and connects with us. But when he assumes the sonorous tone of King in his last minutes, and then takes us into an imagined epiphany before King gave his last speech at the Mason Temple, the sparkplugs sputter. About half way through the show I thought – this guy could be a very good comedian. Which is not a casual comment.
So, kudos for attempting this, and people who attend will learn a thing or two, but I daresay they won’t be as moved as one would like. Too bad, because there is not enough theatre about, by, or including black people anywhere in New York. (Tulis McCall)
"While the structure is all too familiar, the evening is still gripping, thanks to Edwards' dynamic performance and the inherent drama of the subject matter."
Frank Scheck for New York Post
"Edwards, an actor clearly committed to his subject, bears only a passing resemblance to King. He tries to make up the difference in vocabulary and accent but misses the mark."
Robert Windeler for Back Stage