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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 6, 2002

'K2' reaches for greater philosophical heights

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Drama Critic

 •  'K2'

7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 24

Windward Community College Little Theater



The premise for Patrick Meyer's play is agonizingly cliché. Two mountain-climbing friends are stranded on a ledge of the world's second-highest mountain, the "K2" of the title. One has a broken leg. They have enough rope for only one to make a descent.

So far this is a buddy story and a jumping off point for an action movie. Indeed, Meyer's play, written in 1982, was made into a poorly received film about 10 years later.

But the original two-man theater script works hard to be more than that. The playwright wants this to also be a character study and a spiritual examination of life.

"K2" is produced by The Actors' Group, which stages the show far from its home, the Yellow Brick Studio in Kaka'ako. This effort takes place in the Little Theater at Windward Community College in Kane'ohe.

Life is a mountain? Why not? "Funny what you talk about when you're about to die," one of them says.

Mountains are metaphors. "The higher you go, the deeper you get." Life goes on whether or not it's understood. But understanding has no meaning. "Just holding on" has meaning. More importantly, what these men talk about establishes their characters.

The first part of the play — the action part — goes to Taylor (played by Eric Nemoto), a cynical district attorney, burnt out from prosecuting life's trash and unable to connect with women outside of brief mutual rapes bargained for over margaritas.

The second and philosophical part of the play goes to Harold (Wil Kahele), a physicist, devoted equally to creating neutron bombs and to loving his wife and child.

Why these people are friends may be the real puzzle. They are both workaholics who share a passion for climbing mountains. Perhaps they give each other balance.

But their immediate dilemma drives the play and is established in the first five minutes. There is only one decision to be made, but how will they make it? This will be a test of their courage and conviction — with the audience invited to vicariously participate.

There are also opportunities for some gallows humor. "We shoulda stuck with dirt bikes," one of them snarls.

Steady direction from Dennis Proulx and two excellent performances keep the action from sliding down the slippery slope into unacceptable melodrama.

Nemoto wears his role with great authority and immediacy. He's macho, edgy and desperate. He'll go far out on a rope, but only a finite number of times. He has the sharp dialogue — quick hits that he punches out with discipline and control.

Kahele eases into philosophy as his role becomes increasingly important. He takes a short detour to criticize the way lives are shaped by marketing, but has a wonderfully strong final monologue that combines his deep love for his wife and child with the moving image of blind arctic foxes that knowingly accept their deaths.

All this plays out on an effective, shadow box set that reveals the ledge from behind, as if the audience watched from inside the mountain. Technical demands are met fairly effectively and while the outside climbs and small avalanche are not fully realistic, they are acceptably represented in a way that does not interrupt the necessary realistic flow of action.

Ultimately, the mountain is unforgiving in forcing us to focus on the basic realities of life and death. Despite much of the obvious construction in the play, the production becomes a spiritual time out. It leaves a lingering aftereffect, much like a religious service.