with video: Performance Network mounts "K2"
In order to stage a production of Patrick Meyers’ “K2,” Performance Network Theatre is moving mountains — well, one mountain, anyway.
Specifically, set designer Dan C. Walker’s vision of a K2 ledge (as constructed by technical director Janine Woods and her team) was first built in the Network’s rehearsal space, only to be broken down and reconstructed later on the main stage.
“I’m glad I’m the director, and that I don’t have to do that,” quipped director Tim Rhoze. “I just sit back with my Starbucks and say, ‘Needs to be a little taller, a little wider.’ And obviously, it has to be secured, since mountains don’t generally have a tendency to wiggle.”
“It’s a lot of dialogue for a 90-minute show, so there were a lot of challenges and questions going into it,” said Rhoze. “Questions like, ‘Oxygen would just not be as available at this altitude, but these guys have to talk. The play has to keep moving. How do we reconcile that?’”
To get a solid dose of reality in regard to mountain climbing, Rhoze and his cast (James Bowen and John Manfredi) have conferred with representatives from local climbing gym Planet Rock, as well as local outfitter/retailer Bivouac. But Rhoze also made sure to select his actors carefully.
“One of the reasons we chose these two actors is that it’s important that the 2 guys have a chemistry that’s believable on stage,” said Rhoze. “These guys have been good friends for last 20 years, so they have that. Also, I needed 2 actors who have the talent and capability to handle the extremely difficult task of making one believe it’s cold, that they’re dealing with frostbite and other stuff, and that they’re 20,000 feet up when, in reality, they’re about four and a half feet off the ground.”
The original New York production of “K2” became legendary because of set designer Ming Cho Lee’s huge, feast-for-the-eyes stage mountain. Since then, revivals have tried to pursue the same end on a smaller scale, or take a more abstract approach. At the Network, set designer Walker has combined the 2 strategies, as well as proposing that the theater’s last rows of seats be brought onto the stage to create a thrust space.
“Bringing them on stage makes (the mountain) loom higher,” said Rhoze. “Whoever sits there might want to bring some crampons and rope, just in case.”
Rhoze considers the mountain to be the play’s third character, and more generally, “K2” has altered his perspective. On a recent flight from New York to Detroit, Rhoze, who suffers from a fear of heights, sat in the window seat (“I like to see where I’m going to fall to, I guess,” he said).
“The pilot came on the loudspeaker and said, we’ve reached 20,000 feet, our cruising altitude, so you can take seat belts off and walk around the cabin. And I looked out the window and thought, this is how high they would climb. These guys go five miles up in the air with a nylon rope. I don’t know how they do it.”
"K2" set designer Daniel C. Walker talks about the effect of using a thrust stage for the Network's production. (Walker has a personal connection to the play, since the father of his wife, Jo Broughton, was reportedly one of the inspirations for "K2.")
PREVIEW "K2" Who: Performance Network Theatre. What: Patrick Meyers' drama about 2 stranded mountain climbers, who are longtime friends, and their struggle to figure out what to do when one is injured with a broken leg. Where: 120 East Huron Street. When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday, January 7-February 7. How much: $27-$41. (Thursday, January 7 at 8 p.m. is a "pay what you can" performance, with a suggested donation of $10; other preview performances, happening through January 14, cost $22, with the exception of Saturday, January 9, which costs $30.) Info: 734-663-0681 and the Performance Network web site.
PNT's promotional video for "K2."