Beth's Book Review

The Man in Room 306 at the Luna Stage, West Orange, NJ

Credits: Beth Moroney
Credits: Beth Moroney

            The Luna Stage, a Jersey theater gem, chose to revive its 1995 world premiere drama, The Man in Room 306, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Starring Jamil A.C. Mangan as Dr. King, this 90 minute production portrays Dr. King in the last hours of his life as he struggles to write a speech for the Poor People's March in Washington, which was to have taken place a week hence. Mangan's booming voice is Shakespearean in its delivery as Dr. King reminisces about the tribulations in his past, particularly his fears about his father, “Daddy Reverend King,” and his fears about the future. The play, written by Craig Alan Edwards, is one of the best composed, most riveting dramas that has appeared on a contemporary stage.

            Before entering the theater, guests were invited into an information room that included photos of Dr. King during his lifetime. People and events that King mentions during the drama are defined in the room, which even included an area for a photo opportunity where the guest could hold up a sign and be incorporated into a freedom march. The room provided opportunities for guests to leave messages about where they were when they heard the news about the assassination of Dr. King and what that moment represented in their lives. Providing this information for the public helped to create the setting and tone for the play while people waited to embark on the dramatic journey.

            Upon entering the theater the audience heard an actual radio broadcast taken from a Memphis, Tennessee radio station which provided background music and news items to set the mood of the era for the theater goers. President Lyndon Johnson had declared the week before that he would not seek a second term as President of the United States, and Marvin Gaye, Tammy Terrell, Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations brought back the Motown sound that was so popular  in 1968. The play, directed brilliantly by Jerome Preston Bates, used several broadcast bites throughout, to convey the news highlights of April 1968.

Sign Up for E-News

            The play opens with Dr. King curled up on the bed in Room 306. The set reproduced the actual room in which King stayed during his time in Memphis. A shabby, cheap looking room, it is clean and functional, but a reminder that in those days blacks were not welcome in ritzier places, nor could freedom fighters afford the luxuries of lavish hotel suites. King awakens from a nightmare, clasping his hands over his heart, and reacting to the thunder and lightening that is going on outside his window.

            The narrative, which Dr. King delivers directly to the audience, flows from one thought to another, as the Civil Rights advocate does what most of us do when we have an important speech to pen or essay to compose. He procrastinates by taking the audience through events and dreams of his own life, plays a round or two of solitaire, and talks on the phone. He exposes the pain he feels over the shooting of Larry Paine, a sixteen year old boy who had marched with Dr. King only a week before. Dr. King takes moral responsibility for the young man's death and chastises himself for allowing it to happen. He struggles with doubts about his success as a leader and exposes his weaknesses as a human being.

            The script allows the audience an opportunity to see the synthesis of the creative process that the brilliant orator, Dr. King, may very well have experienced each time he wrote one of his often quoted and much remembered speeches. How does one top the words that have come before? How does one continue to motivate people across the nation without becoming redundant and having the message ignored?

            There are moments of humor and humanity spread throughout the play. Dr. King lets the audience in on the fact, that like many children, he fantasized about becoming a major league athlete. His most treasured possession is a baseball that his grandmother, whom he affectionately called Mama, had given to him. The ball, now signed by Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson, remains in a prominent place onstage throughout the production, a symbol of childhood dreams.

            Dr. King shares that he wanted to be a lawyer, but came from a long line of Southern Baptist preachers, and that is what Daddy King had chosen for him to pursue as a career. Daddy King had chosen a bride for “M.L.” as his family and friends called him, “a girl from a fine Atlanta family,” but Dr. King adamantly wanted to select his own bride. He was introduced to his wife, Coretta, through a mutual friend and impressed by her beauty and intellect, proposed to her. Although being on the road for years at a time, and also having dallied with other women during his long, lonely absences from home, he makes his devotion to his wife clear throughout the play.

            A large gold watch glitters from Dr. King's wrist, reflecting the light as he speaks. Wearing his old black suit, which he tells us that Coretta warns will one day fall off his body when a single thread comes loose, the timepiece seems an anomaly in King’s fashion style. The watch, however, is there for a reason, a symbol of the fact that Dr. King's time on earth is running out.

            The play's climax puts together the pieces that Dr. King has shared during the performance in a thrilling manner. It is a tribute to the creative process of a man who continues to change the way people think more than fifty years after he is gone from this earth. The Man in Room 306 honors the man that those who care about social justice will always see as a beacon of truth and peace.

            Just a word about the Luna State, located at 555 Valley Road, West Orange, NJ. Nestled into a residential area in the town, the Luna Stage has been in business since 1993. Supported by the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, which supports a thriving statewide professional theater community, the Luna Stage provides an opportunity for New Jersey residents to see top quality productions for a quarter of Broadway prices. For further information about upcoming productions or season subscriptions, contact 973-395-5551 or The list of previous productions that the Luna Stage has done is impressive and of top quality, a wonderful value for fine theater experiences. 

Beth Moroney, former English teacher and administrator in the Edison Public School District, specialized in teaching Creative Writing and Journalism. Recently Moroney published Significant Anniversaries of Holocaust/Genocide Education and Human/Civil Rights, available through the New Jersey Commission on the Holocaust. A passionate reader, Moroney is known for recommending literature to students, teachers, parents, and the general public for over forty years. Moroney can be contacted at

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Rutgers Takes Over Police Dispatch Services

June 22, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers University will provide the city’s police dispatching services in a move that New Brunswick says will cut costs and put an end to dispatcher shortages that resulted in officers doing the job.

The city’s 12 current dispatchers will be laid off at the end of the day on June 30, and Rutgers will supply dispatchers as of July 1 under an agreement that city ...

Thousands Expected in Hillsborough for Sourland Music Festival

June 20, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – The Sourland Music Festival will be held Saturday, June 23 from 3-10 p.m. at the Hillsborough Golf & Country Club at 146 Wertsville Road, rain or shine, to benefit the Sourland Conservancy.

Discounted advance-sale tickets are available online only, Children under 12 are admitted free.

“We’ve got a really powerful lineup of the region’s most ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, July 14, 10:00 AM

Maplewood Memorial Library, Maplewood

Bag-of-Books Sale - Friends of Maplewood Library

Wed, July 25, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sings Conclude with Verdi ...

Middlesex County: Free Music, Fireworks and Fun in “A Revolutionary Celebration”

June 22, 2018

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ -  Want your 4th of July fun to last 7 days? Then bring your family and join in Middlesex County’s “Revolutionary Celebration” for 2018! Our Office of Arts and History has planned events for June 30 and July 1-7 that are fun, educational, and a great way to honor the spirit of Independence Day. Explore Highland Park, New ...

More than the Fourth of July, Make it a Star Spangled Week in the Long Beach Island Region of NJ

June 22, 2018

STAFFORD AND LONG BEACH ISLAND - Summer 2018 starts now, so time to enjoy the beauty of the Jersey Shore. As families and friends gather for the summer holiday, there is plenty of options to assist in rounding out July 4 vacation and getaways.

With July 4 falling on a Wednesday, there are many events surrounding the holiday.

The award winning Surf and Sip Brew Trail itinerary is available ...

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (William Morrow, 2018)


A friend, whose opinion on literature I respect greatly, reported to me recently that she had just finished reading A.J. Finn's debut novel, The Woman in the Window. Of it she said, “I wish I hadn't finished it,” which I interpreted to mean, “It was so good I'm sorry that I finished it.” ...

'Half Time' delivers with sterling cast

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other talents.

The musical centers on an effort to have seniors perform a dance number during ...

'Half Time' lights up Paper Mill stage

‘Half Time’ turns the tables on aging in gleeful production

By Liz Keill

MILLBURN, NJ – The Paper Mill Playhouse is putting on a smashing new production of “Half Time” to round out its current season.

With actress Georgia Engel in an engaging performance, the cast also features Donna McKehnie, Andre De Shieilds and Lilias White, among a host of other ...