Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I [heart] NYC Day 0: The Mountaintop with Samuel L. Jackson

The work part of this trip ended when I returned the rental car for the "business" portion out in the 'burbs, dropped my coworker off at Newark Terminal C, and boarded NJTransit bound for New York Penn Station (not to be confused with Newark Penn Station, the first stop after the airport).

It took a bit longer than I expected but the trip was utterly uneventful and about $12.50. Leaving Penn Station on foot I walked uptown to 41st street and checked in to my favorite hotel in New York City, the Hilton Times Square -- where this time, my room on the 43rd floor has a fantastic panorama of Manhattan including the New York Times and Empire State Buildings. The very city texture which I love of Manhattan.

After dropping my luggage in the room at about 7:30 I continue walking up town -- I love how easy Manhattan is to navigate (uptown = street numbers get bigger / downtown = street numbers get smaller) and find the Theatre Development Fund's TKTS booth. I was in the mood for a musical, but all of the musicals on the board -- and it now being about 7:45 I had either (a) seen before (b) was planning on seeing the touring version at PlayhouseSquare [so why waste a night on Broadway?] or (c) had heard enough about to have no interest in seeing.

So in Lincoln fashion and with less than 15 minutes to published curtain I did what I normally do: Picked one that I haven't even heard of from the board, bought a ticket for a play called The Mountaintop and walked (this time downtown) to the Jacobs Theatre on 45th between Broadway and 8th for The Mountaintop, staring Samuel L. Jackson (as Martin Luther King, Jr.) and Angela Bassett (as Camae) in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968.

If that date doesn't click for you (for some reason when read the setting line in the program the room number was what triggered my recollections): Mr. King was assassinated outside that room on April 4th. . The beginning is a bit mundane: He relieves himself, then begins working on a speech. Calling for room service -- discontinued the previous week -- a housekeeper, Camae (Angela Bassett) delivers the coffee and a relationship between the two of them grows as they share cigarettes and she slips a bit of whisky ("Irish Cough Surup") into his coffee. But then it takes a surreal turn and it turns out Camae is an angel -- sent to bring Mr. King to heaven.

We see an even more human side of Martin Luther King--he's not prepared to be a martyr. There's too much left undone and he has to see it through to completion. It's difficult for me to summarize and like Next To Normal the total profundity is just starting to hit me -- and work on my emotions -- now, two plus hours after I left the theater. It seems like something worth seeing and both Ms. Bassett and Mr. Jackson turn in compelling performances where, combined with a realistic grungy 1960s hotel room set, you leave the decade for a good ninety minutes.

Returning to 2011 and leaving the theatre I bought my Unlimited Ride Metro Card. At $29 for 7 days of unlimited MTA rides, I'm still convinced that it is one of the best bargains in New York and made it Carnegie Hall's neighborhood of 57th and 7th for a quick and light dinner at Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridian. The psychological break and total incongruity that one passes while crossing from the hotel lobby (a high-end New York hotel that isn't cutting edge design trend-wise, but isn't by any stretch dull) to Burger Joint (a place that serves Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, Grilled Cheese, Fries, and nothing else in an environment whose decor (and the ancient TV hanging on the wall) is most reminiscent of 1964, including paneled walls.

Subway back to the hotel... and I am ready to sleep.

More tomorrow.


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