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Theater review: ‘K2’ is gripping, intimate, emotional

Sandra Hosking Correspondent

When two men are stranded on a ledge on the second-tallest mountain in the world with only one rope, you know their prospects are grim.

In addition, one climber is severely injured, and both are exposed to unforgiving weather. Those elements, coupled with their need to survive, make Lake City Playhouse’s production of “K2,” by Patrick Meyers, an intense experience. The imposing set and fact that the play runs just over an hour add to the urgency. It is not to be missed.

George Green, as Harold, and Todd Kehne, as Taylor, have a great rapport as the two climbers. Harold is a scientist who waxes philosophical as he sits practically motionless on the ledge with a broken leg. Green portrays the man with stillness and calm that contrasts with the severity of his situation. At times he speaks in a near whisper, yet the audience hangs on his words.

Taylor, meanwhile, is a hot-headed, cynical attorney who faces the worst dilemma: to risk his life helping his friend off the mountain or descend alive and alone. Kehne shifts from rage to quiet sarcasm quite well.

Meyers’ script creates a challenge for any theater troupe: how to construct a mountain on a stage, a mountain that must be climbed. Lake City Playhouse’s design team created an effective vehicle for the play’s action. The intimate auditorium is the perfect venue for this kind of play.

The script is full of rich language and big ideas: friendship, futility versus hope, holding on versus letting go and having faith.

Some of Harold’s speeches are a bit long, and the dialogue is full of expletives, but these men are stuck on a mountain, so, really, they deserve some slack.

The seriousness of the play is punctuated by bits of welcome humor. Taylor attributes his passion to his Italian background, having drunk tomato sauce for breakfast. And he calls each of his relationships with women a war.

Every emotional moment and action is well crafted by director Troy Nickerson, and each pause is deliberate, maximizing the impact. For example: “Harold, we’ve only got one rope,” Taylor says. Long pause. The gravity of the fact, because of the way the line is delivered, weighs heavily in the auditorium. It also informs every action after that moment, driving toward the play’s inevitable and gut-wrenching conclusion.

The crux of the play is revealed in Harold’s words: Things happen when you can’t run away from where you are. The day will come when you just have to start down and let the earth pull you where it wants you to go.

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