Last night I had the pleasure of seeing K2 at the Jungle Theater. I had read Patrick Meyers’s script a few months ago in preparation for an interview with the director, Bain Boehlke (who’s also the Jungle’s artistic director) and thought, “Wow, what a dumb script.” I don’t often think that about scripts, so I asked Bain why he would choose to stage such a thing. His response? “It’s the kind of technical challenge that the Jungle likes.” (You can read my column about the show here.)
Indeed, Bain and set designer Joel Sass did build an awesome set, complete with a convincing ice ledge, an avalanche, and a ninety-degree climbing wall—actor Kevin D. West, who trained with climbing instructor Carolyn Hansen, clambers up the wall three times over the course of the play with increasing fatigue. Sound designer Sean Healey also manages to achieve the near impossible. His soundscape of rushing wind and the portentous silence of one of the tallest mountains in the world possesses a texture and rhythm that subtlety moves the play along. “How do you make the sound of a mountain?” he asked me. I don’t know, but he did it and he did it well.
Oftentimes, a script will read badly on the page because scripts aren’t meant to be read. They’re meant to be performed. To my delight and relief, actors West and Tim McGee (left, photo courtesy Michal Daniels) made me believe that they were two old friends trapped in a life-threatening situation, stranded on one of the most dangerous mountains in the world. They molded this play into something greater than its words. But let’s face facts: two guys stuck on an ice ledge 27,000 feet above sea level aren’t going to have enough oxygen to talk for ninety minutes. However, we must suspend our disbelief when we walk into a theater, and despite its flaws, K2 is worth your time. Best to go on a warmer day, though. After a night of watching two guys freeze to death on a mountain, the last thing you want to do is walk outside into fifteen-degree weather in April. Minnesota can be cruel.
After the show last night, the audience stuck around for complimentary desserts, which included creamy strawberry cheesecake, not-quite-defrosted cream puffs, and to-die-for chocolate cake, plus the requisite wine and beer. (Hey, theater people like to eat free food and imbibe. What can I say?) The audience seemed as impressed with the chow as they were with the show.
To top off the night, I drove over to Open Eye Figure Theatre's new space in South Minneapolis for a friend’s birthday bash. The former space of Patrick’s Cabaret is a perfect fit for Michael Sommers’s dark and inventively sentient shows. Open Eye’s new theater has yet to be unveiled to the public, but when it is, you should get thee to an Open Eye show. Until then, check out K2. Rarely does theater ascend to such heights.
K2 runs through May 20 at the Jungle Theater.