The play “The Meeting,” held Jan. 22 at the W. E. Singleton Center was a great celebration of African-American heritage just prior to Black History Month.
The premise was simple, a hypothetical meeting of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, but the layers of conflicting views and innuendos were quite meaningful. Having the stage only include a few plain pieces of furniture and a speaking platform kept the audience’s attention on the actors and their interaction that the play centered on. Beginning with speeches by King, played by Jeff Robinson, and Malcolm X, played by Thomas Grimes, was a great way to show their opposing viewpoints, for those who may not be familiar with them. From the speech Malcolm returns to his apartment and goes directly to bed.
After he wakes the next day he is greeted by his friend and confidant Rashad, played by Wesley Lawrence Taylor. Malcolm now has to deal with the fact that his house was bombed and that he is meeting with King, whose viewpoints on the “race situation” don’t exactly coincide with his. But Rashad takes a bit of the seriousness away from the situation, as he dances and sings a Billie Holiday song.
King is greeted with skepticism by Rashad and Malcolm defends him until Rashad leaves. The war of wits, views and words that occurs between the two is the core of the play and it is amazing to watch. Grimes and Robinson are both quick and capable opponents in this battle. “Still the dream,” spouts Grimes. “Still the revolutionary,” replies Robinson. They each also excel in their emulation of the character, Robinson especially captures King’s voice and presence.
The conflict between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. is captured well in the arm-wrestling scenes. The two speak heatedly and as King points his finger in Malcolm’s face they begin to arm-wrestle and Malcolm smacks his opponents hand on the table. When the subject is brought up again there is a rematch and King wins. The third time the subject is broached they each say that they let the other win in previous matches and there is a third arm- wrestling bout. Except this time neither comes out victorious and they both seem to realize that this “real” battle parallels their differences of opinion.
Humor adds an appropriate dimension to “The Meeting.” “I had a dream tonight. Oh, sorry that’s your line,” quips Malcolm. “You may borrow it,” King replies. Lines like that and the scenes where Rashad dances and Malcolm and King arm- wrestle help lighten the atmosphere amidst the heated scenes.
A scene that stands out is when Malcolm asks King if he can get angry and Robinson shakes with fury as he recounts an episode about an African-American child walking in a march and being berated with racial slurs by a huge white man. “Yes, I can get angry,” he bellowed.
“The Meeting” showed many sides to both historical figures. One of the great moments was when Malcolm X softens as King hands him a doll that his daughter wanted him to give Malcolm’s daughter after she saw footage of the bombing. The play’s well-roundness was its greatest attribute.