Playwright Patrick Meyers takes the task and danger of climbing the world's most arduous peak and reduces it to a single incident. The play unfolds the morning after a climbing accident has trapped Taylor (West) and Harold (McGee) on a tiny ledge in the middle of a 600-foot wall up at 27,000 feet on K2, the world's second highest mountain and the most dangerous climb in the world. Their situation is dire. They have a single 120-foot rope and a handful of tools. Harold also has a broken leg that makes him nearly immobile.
We never learn much about what brought Taylor and Harold to this point. There's a bit about their background – Taylor is a district attorney, Harold a physicist with a wife and child – but most of their motivations comes from their actions. The older Harold is at once more grounded and a deeper thinker than the impulsive, worldly Taylor. From the beginning, he knows he is doomed, but works with Taylor seemingly to keep his partner motivated to save himself from the peak.
At its heart, K2 isn't about what brought these climbers to this point in their lives – it's about these particular 75 minutes at what likely is the end of their lives. Even with those limitations, West and McGee find the space to create distinct and nuanced characters. McGee faces additional limitations, since his Harold is stuck sitting for the entire show, but he still brings the character to life.
Even as metaphysical as the play gets near the end – as Harold slips closer to the end, he examines not only his life, but all of creation – the actors and Boehlke never let us forget that they are trapped with nothing but a slim chance of survival. And in the end, they prove themselves to be heroes. Not because they ultimately triumph (that question is still up in the air at play's end), but because they never stop fighting, thinking or living.
K2 has been extended through May 27 at the Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis. For tickets, call 612-822-7063 or visit www.jungletheater.com.