Reviewed by Kellie Powell
K2 by Patrick Meyer opened last Thursday night (Feb. 18) at the KNOW Theatre in Binghamton. K2, in Pakistan’s Karakoran Range, is the second highest mountain in the world and considered the most dangerous; for every five people who reach the top, one is killed. In Meyer’s 95-minute drama, two American climbers, one with a compound leg fracture, are trapped 1,250 feet below the 28,250-foot summit.
The director, Bernie Sheredy, and the production’s designers faced a tremendous challenge – creating a believable, climbable mountain in a relatively small space. The set, designed by Tim Borden and constructed under the supervision of Kat D’Andrea, stimulates the imagination instead of overwhelming the audience with spectacle. When the climbers face catastrophes – including an avalanche – the events are handled with minimal special effects, but they are remarkably suspenseful. The fact that six feet off the ground feels like 6,000 to the audience is only one testament to the realism of the actors’ performances. The unique ways that the actors portray their moments of altitude-induced psychosis are also noteworthy.
In addition to being a high-stakes play about climbers stranded on one of the world’s most dangerous mountains, K2 is a very intimate, moving story of a longtime friendship between two very different men. Taylor, played by Francisco Paler-Large, is a womanizing district attorney. Harold, played by Know Artistic Director Tim Gleason, is a happily married ex-hippie physics professor. Conflicts between the two range from the practical to the abstract and ideological. What begins as a dispute over who is to blame for their plight evolves into a sociological debate that touches on racism in America, spirituality and religion, materialism and technology, and, of course, physics.
This section of the script contains some expositional and philosophical dialogue that could sound forced or pretentious in a play with such immediate mortal consequences, but the incredibly skilled actors manage to make it compelling and realistic. By the time the final conflict reveals itself, the audience is spellbound. And, in its ending moments, as Gleason delivers his final monologue and the audience members try to choke back sobs, K2 positively soars.
K2 will continue Thursday through Sunday (Feb. 25-28) at the KNOW Theatre. Visit http://www.knowtheatre.org for more information.