The pair sit 27,000 feet upward, perched precariouslyhaving barely survived another frigid night on the second highest mountain in the world. The air temperature in the performance space is suitably chilly. Kenneth Grady Barker's set selections are extraordinary. With a blue cyclorama as background, the freezing men face the audience. The thrust stage is perfect and as the men ponder their situation, everyone else is drawn in. Shawn E. Boyle's bright lighting blazes at theatergoers. J Hagenbuckle's sound delivery is vital and, when it needs to be, seat-shaking.
Taylor, far more physically able than Harold, comes across as something of a blowhard. His language can be appropriately obscene and he likes to talk about women and winning. Pretty macho stuff. Harold, once a free spirit and now a scientist, is far more contemplative. He yearns for closeness with his family and drifts in and out of lucidity. There has been a very recent accident and Taylor's leg injury is severe.
As the plot moves along, the men lose many of their supplies and the tension rapidly accelerates. Taylor is hoping to create a sling to carry his friend to safety. The execution of that maneuver seems unlikely and is totally dashed for lack of rope. These guys are spiritual opposites: characters who would never be buddies. Here they are, however, trapped. The circumstances are desperate. They will not be able to endure, without tent or protection, one more night.
The immediate urgency of K2 compels one to watch carefully. We feel the production's fervid intensity. The compassionate Harold longs for his wife and children while he understands that seeing them ever again is unlikely. The overtly agitated Taylor masks his insecurity with surface bravado.
Harold and Taylor are mismatched but they are, for certain, together. Thus, Patrick Meyers has written a play about men whose divergent personalities are in conflict. Wes Grantom, directing with specificity, has few options. Harold, his leg terribly broken, cannot move. Taylor climbs upward and the escalation, in itself, is impressive. It also enables the production to (literally) move a bit.
Thematically, everyone in the theater is faced with the push forward or perish, high drama. Harold is virtual immobile. Is death inevitable and fast approaching? If so, he may very well be forever represented by Taylor.
The multi-layered K2 is about nature's power as well as human confrontation and subsequent potential. Harold is graceful, stoic and thoughtful as his fate becomes evident. Taylor is far more complicated than he initially lets on. Keller and McGeever provide spirited, deep-felt performances. The creative team pulls it all together in an original, inspiring production.
K2 continues at the Berkshire Theatre Festival's Unicorn Theatre through July 3rd. For tickets to the production in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, call the box office at (413) 298-5576 or visit berkshiretheatre.org.
- Fred Sokol