It is said that we should never meet our heroes, as they will be revealed to be just normal people. The truth of the matter is that, while we know Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a saint, he was a man with hopes, emotions, conflict and, yes, dreams. Craig Alan Edwards’ remarkable play, “The Man in Room 306,” now at Luna Stage, gives us a glimpse of what the final day of Dr. King’s life may have been like. Jamil A. C. Mangan has the honor of portraying Dr. King in the first performance of this play that has not featured the playwright in the title role. Directed by Jerome Preston Bates, this is a clear-eyed view of the man whose life and death both have been influential in the birth, growth, and continual flowering of a social and civil rights revolution, on the heels of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.
We glimpse a recumbent man sleeping fitfully, then awakening to a clap of thunder and flash of lightning. We have the benefit of hindsight, and this is a fitting introduction to a man who could have been born from this power of Nature. Through the next 90 minutes, Edwards shows us the father, the accidental activist, and the intentionally non-violent planner, with the courage to stay the course. Bates and Mangan together are the articulation that brings the messages homewe are still fighting for the dream Dr. King shared with us, and we are still wounded by his loss five decades after the event. Events happen in threes and with JFK, RFK, and MLK, the reverberations are still felt. This young father of four, sometimes errant husband, purveyor of Dad jokes and homespun wisdom is brought fully to life in this production that will leave you humbled, looking for answers and wanting to learn even more about Dr. King.
Fans of Luna will recognize Mangan from “Master Harold and the Boys,” another masterful performance. He breathes vigorous life into someone many of us know only from pages and film as the passion for change ignites in this country again. We see Dr. King as the complete person, and it’s exactly what we need. Bates’ direction brings it all together, the highs and lows that are orchestrated like music that resonate long after leaving the theatre. And be sure to you visit the Context Room curated by expert dramaturg Cheryl Katz, your journey into the past will be full of treasures.
“The Man in Room 306” runs through May 13. Tickets are selling out quickly so for your best chance at the seats and dates you want, visit www.lunastage.org