*One of the best things about being a reviewer is seeing a play I love from start to finish. I can definitely say I recommend The Man in Room 306. This one-man-play stars Craig Alan Edwards, who also penned the production.
The Man in Room 306 gives the audience a peak into a personal side of Dr. King, the man. King isn’t depicted as a hero or superman but a man with all his strengths, weaknesses, doubts and temptations. The production is filled with pathos, humor and King’s strong sense of humanity.
Although full of history, Edwards does take a bit of poetic license in this fictionalized version of what may have gone through Martin Luther King’s mind on April 3, 1968, the night before his assassination. The Man in Room 306 is currently running at the 59E59th Street Theaters, located at 59 East 59th Street (bet. Madison and Park) in Manhattan. Running for a limited engagement, the production will end after Valentine’s Day, February 14th.
Although Craig Alan Edwards was born in Garden Grove, California, he was reared in Philadelphia, PA. After he left school, he worked in computer systems for IBM until one day he met Vernon Blackman, who became his mentor. Blackman convinced Craig his path was acting and after that there was no turning back.
“While at Boston University (Dr. King’s alma mater), I read some of King’s personal papers. I was fascinated and began to listen to his speeches which I did every day of the 4 years I was in college. When I became an actor, I realized I hadn’t seen anything that personalized King. I thought maybe if I made it personal for other people, they too could connect with King in the personal way that I do,” remarked Edwards about what led him to write “The Man in Room 306.”
“I think King always wanted to act against the injustices he saw around him but never expected to be a huge figure on the world stage. I imagine he thought he could be part of a group of people who would seek to find solutions. It wasn’t long after he got his own small ministry that the Rosa Parks’ incident occurred. It was then, Martin, was called to his destiny which eventually led him to that fated day at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.” remarked Craig. The Lorraine Motel has since been converted to the National Civil Rights Museum. The Museum has kept Room 306 preserved exactly as it looked the last day of Martin’s sojourn at the motel.
Cheryl Katz does a marvelous job directing and set designer, Charlie Corcoran, fashions Room 306 as MLK left it, while building the set’s balcony so audiences experience the sensation of walking upon the Lorraine Motel balcony when entering the theater.
Dr. King’s love of baseball and his penchant for practical jokes which he, Rev. Abernathy, and those within his inner circle, played on one another to relieve stress is mentioned during the play. “King had a great sense of humor. You have to understand he had to contend with a great deal of aggravation. It took bravery to go against racists, Mr. Hoover, and the other forces of evil that plagued him. He had to deal with joblessness, poverty and the injustices of the Viet Nam War. He had the weight of the whole government against him,” explained the actor.
“This may sound too spiritual for some but I believe there is a dark force that feeds negativity in this world, as there is also a force of light that feeds positivity. Why is it that luminaries like MLK, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and now Obama, always suffer? I think its because they gave and give off such a luminous positive spiritual force and energy, they absolutely project a light which attracts a negative force that seeks to diminish them. I think there is a spiritual battle going on between the forces of light and darkness that affect and utilize human beings. I think these dark forces cannot tolerate the light, so they will come through human beings like J Edgar Hoover and others, who are not interested in justice but only power and control,” observed the actor. “Let’s look at Obama for instance. I believe he is trying to do something positive via politics to help the people, yet there are those dark forces who are trying to do everything they can to keep Obama’s efforts from happening by creating negativity and confusion. Enlightened people must be prepared and must understand that when they try to step up and do something positive, powerful and productive in this world, dark energy will step up to them. So, be prepared to fight to overcome it” claimed Craig.
Edwards discussed Dr. King’s relationship with his father. “I think Martin Luther King, Sr., was a powerful, courageous and strong man. He was a strong disciplinarian and insisted his children make something of themselves. King, Sr., came from a humble upbringing but married into Atlanta’s black aristocracy, eventually taking over the pastorate of Ebenezer Baptist Church from his wife’s father. I think MLK always felt he wanted to live up to his father’s expectations. King’s father wanted to protect Martin, especially after the bombing of his son’s home. But Martin was on a mission and was dedicated to his cause,” declared Mr. Edwards.
Although Dr King and Malcolm X differed in philosophy, neither were violent men. The two only met once and that was in the corridors of the nation’s capitol. At that time, its said Malcolm told Martin “You know, they will never let us grow old.” Malcolm X’s prediction came true. Both men were killed at age 39.
For tickets call the 59E59th St. Theatre Box Office at 212-753-5959 or call Ticket Central at 212-279-4200. For further information about “The Man in Room 306,” go on line at www.59E59.org or see www.themaninroom306.com.