From left are Amanda Warren and Jon Michael Hill in “The Mountaintop.” The play runs until July 9. (Isaak Berliner)

Martin Luther King, Jr. was more than a man to many. He was a modern-day martyr whose image has been reverently depicted on cardboard fans in Black churches, on pictures in beauty shops and barber shops, and in homes next to pictures of Jesus and JFK.   He was and still is, the people’s King.

Nearly 30 years after his assassination, MLK is still the subject of intrigue that compels people to sift through the chards of myths, facts, and memories, possibly because America is still grappling with the issue that led to his assassination.

Playwright Katori Hall is a Pulitzer Prize-winning and two-time Tony Award-nominated Memphis native. Hall toys with the measure between the man and the myth in her play “The Mountaintop,” currently running at Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue in Los Angeles.

The play is set in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel on the evening of April 3, 1968, after MLK delivered his historic “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” speech in support of the sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

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Warren plays Carrie Mae and Hill is cast as Martin Luther King, Jr. (Isaak Berliner)

It’s late. And we see a much different MLK  (Jon Michael Hill) alone in the dingy room.  He looks haggard and anxious as if he has traveled deeper down into the valley of the shadow of  White bigotry.  All he needs is a cup of coffee and a cigarette, preferably a Pall Mall.

Carrie Mae (Amanda Warren) is a voluptuous maid working the late shift. She volunteers to deliver his coffee and her personal stash of smokes, Pall Malls.  It looks like she’s setting King up for a different kind of encounter until she delivers a message that will make him see he’s at the end of that dark valley.

But not before she plays a delicious game of cat and mouse.  Beautiful and beguiling, Warren practically purrs as she gently releases a pheromone-packed plan.

For the fans of the CBS drama, “East New York” where Warren plays a tough-as-nails cop, you will enjoy watching her transform into Carrie Mae the femme fatale who manipulates King.  One moment she is praising him; the next moment she is mocking him for his stinky feet and rumored womanizing.

“There’s an old saying, ‘Be careful when you meet your heroes because they will disappoint you,” said Warren.

The Geffen Playhouse’s production of “The Mountaintop” stars Amanda Warren and Jon Michael Hill and is directed by Patricia McGregor. (Justin Bettma)

“But you must understand that this is a re-imagination. Not everything is cut from the truth. And from that, we have an artistic license. But it is still grounded in the humanity of the man who became the martyr, the legend, a saint, and arguably not a saint. Humanity is complicated.”

Hall’s play is a mosaic of King. He is a maverick, a brilliant speaker, and a courageous activist, but he also drinks, smokes, and doesn’t mind having a laugh with a pretty girl. Amid the laughter, Hall seduces the audience to have a willing suspension of disbelief.  This could have been King’s last night on Earth.

Jon Michael Hill has the most difficult task between the two actors. Although he looks nothing like King, he embodies something we rarely see in King – a vulnerable and fun-loving man.

“There’s not a lot of footage of him not being ‘on’…,” said Hill who researched extensively to inhabit the icon. “The director (Patricia McGregregor) was less interested in imitation and was more interested in finding what he sounds like and looks like with my instrument in the spirit of what he is in all of us,” said Hill also a CBS alum from drama “Elementary.”

Hill and Warren give a powerful 90-minute performance with no intermission, leaving the audience with a new-millennium insight into one of the most prominent leaders who shaped the 20th century.

For tickets, call (310) 208-2028 or visit