It's not uncommon to feel stuck between a rock and a hard place — unless, of course, that rock is one of the highest, most treacherous spots in the world. K2 is just that. A mountain between China and Pakistan, it's responsible for over 70 deaths, and now Mount Everest's 28,251-foot-tall sibling is coming to the Springs by way of the stage.
"The story is very intense," Millibo Art Theatre director and co-founder Jim Jackson says of K2, which opens Thursday. "The dialogue takes on a large conversation; it encompasses so much emotion."
Jackson first saw the play nearly 30 years ago, and knew he wanted to stage it here. "We have a large population of people who love biking, hiking and climbing," he notes, "but might not really love plays."
Written by Denver native Patrick Meyers, K2 follows Taylor, an attorney, and Harold, a scientist. They're thrill-seeking chums who alternate their time between office and mountains. Both, however, have very different perspectives on intimate issues like love and life, which come to a head when they set out together to summit the second-highest peak in the world.
Taylor is prone to womanizing and is emotionally detached from the concerns of others, while Harold is more empathetic. While descending the peak Harold breaks his leg, forcing Taylor to dig deep within himself and help Harold survive.
"It's a very difficult play to produce," says Jackson. "It requires a large enough space to essentially build a mountain in."
Now settled into their high-ceilinged former church building in the Ivywild area, Jackson and set designer Roy Ballard spared no expense in making the play as realistic as possible. Featuring Stephen Ochsner and Michael Lee as Taylor and Harold, respectively, K2 is set on a 12-foot-high climbing wall as a faux cliff's edge. Jackson even managed to find vintage climbing gear suited to the 1970s setting.
Ochsner, a 26-year-old Colorado Springs native, flew in from his current home in Armenia for the show. With an extensive climbing background, he handles scrambling up and down the cliff's edge for many of the production's 90 minutes.
When asked about his character, he says Taylor "has some real issues with his perspectives on life. He values friendships much more than intimate relationships. He is the [symbol] of loneliness. But throughout the course of the play Harold challenges him about his view on love and women ... as they're stuck on that mountain."
If the above suggests an easily accessible buddy comedy, Jackson would issue a gentle warning. "The characters talk like climbers would talk — foul language and all that vulgarity. It will hold the attention of anyone that loves live theater, but it's not a family play, that's for sure."