I wasn’t intending to write a review tonight. I haven’t eaten dinner yet, it’s a work night, the 3-legged cats are begging for attention after their insensitive abandonment of 13 whole hours (Worst. Catmom. Ever.) and I have a movie that is racking up daily Red Box fees that I haven’t finished watching yet. There are several more excuses I could offer up if I were so inclined. But I’m not. I only mention them at all in an effort to lend some significance to the fact that sometimes you stumble upon a theater experience that’s worth a few more minutes of being hangry, the appearance of dark circles under your eyes or let’s be honest, a more belated than usual appearance at your place of employment the next morning, in order to share a bit and perhaps spark interest or inspire confidence in a choice to attend. I found the Pear Theater’s production of The Mountaintop to be just such an experience. If you too are hangry, sleepy or technically needed elsewhere, here’s the lead I always bury/save for last: The Mountaintop is 90 minutes well spent and plays through Sunday the 31st at the Pear Theatre in Mountain View. It’s one that will have me thinking and feeling feels as they say, probably for a while.
I’ll be brief (it’s relative) not just because the blood sugar is low, but because I don’t want to risk giving a single thing away about this show which morphs from a story you think you know, even the most historically motivated of us, to something very unexpected. The arc is fascinating, well-written, thought-provoking, funny and emotional. Its prose is infused with grand sermon, quiet reflection and has exceptionally simple beauty at its core. Its authenticity and civility make it extremely impactful; it is elevated by its ability to make us see ourselves in one that could not be more different. This play magically identifies the sameness in all of us and communicates through that remarkable muse.
Many of the technical elements set the mood superbly (fantastic set and props, perfect pre-show music, solid lighting mostly) and the acting, which consists of just two people, is truly commendable. This dynamic material, demanding and daunting is well navigated. Excellent choices, excellent levels, both actors feel this play deeply, connecting with it and it shows. Indeed, on the whole some fine, fine acting, particularly the last 2/3rds of the play. Once invested, once you find the rhythm, it takes you places.
Rare is the play or performance that can catch me off guard, but I found it hard to keep it together in a couple of instances. It filled me with an urge to genuinely mourn that anyone has to fight at all. As if a good sob in the car was going to shed any light at all on why the humanity that has such capacity for love and healing is the same that creates the struggles that tear us all apart in the first place. But there’s a restorative essence to this play as well and it celebrates hope and acceptance and absolutes and uncertainty and victories of any size. It celebrates the mystery and the knowns. This production isn’t flawless. Like its characters, it sins and falters a bit. These minor un-cleared hurdles (mostly in the first third) are quickly forgiven in light of the powerful storytelling that touches on so many themes.
Well so much for brief. I see the teleprompter that is my stomach and my cats and the clock telling me to wrap it up. 4 ½ jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for a truly unexpected, intelligent, relevant, moving, poetic, meaningful play. I enjoyed it even on an empty stomach.