Saturday, April 28, 2007

K2 (The SOB Review)

K2 (The SOB Review) - The Jungle Theater, Minneapolis, MN

***1/2 (out of ****)

Just as the Himalayan mountain known as K2 soars to nearly unparalleled heights as the world's second tallest, director Bain Boehlke succeeds in ascending to the apex with this chilling and riveting revival of Patrick Meyers' K2.

This is without question the best production I've seen at Minneapolis' intimate Jungle Theatre.

Written in 1982, but set in 1977, K2 catches up with Taylor (Kevin D. West) and Harold (Tim McGee) shortly after the two begin their descent from the steep summit of the world's hardest and most treacherous climb. K2 is dubbed as the "Savage Mountain," primarily because those who succeed in reaching the top are in the most danger of never making it back down.

Harold has already sustained injuries to his leg, and in his spot check of their gear, Taylor discovers that they're missing a crucial lifeline, quite literally. He just barely sees the second rope they need high above them. If they're both to make it down alive, he must climb back up and retrieve it.

Compounding the peril is the limited sunlight, freezing temperatures and the high elevation's dangerous lack of oxygen, which intermittently wreaks havoc on both men's lucidity. While Taylor attempts to climb more than once to reach the critical rope, he continually encourages Harold to regale him with his life story to keep his focus intact while protecting the slack on the only rope they have.

Without divulging any more of this story, which itself peaks with a startling and nearly euphoric epiphany by Harold, this somewhat existential survival tale packs a surprising emotional punch. Boehlke has not only engineered a clear-eyed view of how precarious life itself is, but his two actors excel in carrying the production into an unexpected pinnacle of suspense and love. As perfect as West's performance is, McGee delivers one of the absolute best turns by an actor I've seen during the entire 2006-07 Theatrical Season. Most astonishing of all was how I was moved to tears.

A special nod must be made to Joel Sass for his exceptional set design that has the solid look of a real mountain slope, complete with real snow. Additionally, Barry Browning's lighting design perfectly traces the track of the sun against the mountain, while Sean Healey's ingenious sound design captures the forbidding howls of K2's wicked winds, as well as everything from the fall of snow to noises made by the alpine axes into the ice.

Despite its scant running time of 90 minutes (including one 15 minute intermission), K2 is an adventurous and towering achievement worth the plunge. K2 performs at the Jungle Theater through May 20.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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