L-R: Shira Dubrovner, Marcel Lloyd, Wendy Bridges (Beau’s wife), Beau Bridges and Big Red. (Photo courtesy Bluebird Imaging)
Mammoth’s inclement weather last Saturday night was reminiscent of the storms one might find while climbing one of the world’s highest peaks. Inside the Edison Theatre, it was warm and cozy, perfect for a near sold-out house to settle in for a staged reading of Patrick Meyers’ play, “K2,” performed by film and TV star Beau Bridges, his nephew Marcel Lloyd and his daughter, Emily Bridges.
Produced by Mammoth Repertory Theatre Creative Director Shira Dubrovner, the “An Evening With The Stars” fundraising event for the Mammoth Lakes Foundation brought out a wide cross-section of area business, civic and cultural leaders to rub elbows with the stars and witness a riveting dramatic presentation.
“K2” gets its title from the 28,251-foot mountain, the second tallest on the planet, that sits on the border between Pakistan and China. The play is a 55-minute harrowing tale of two mountain climbers who are stranded on a ledge at 27,000 feet. After an accident leaves one of the men, Harold (Bridges), with a severely broken leg, he and his partner, Taylor (Lloyd), survive the night only to confront the fact that they only have enough rope for one of them to rappel to Base Camp safely.
Adapted for the big screen in 1991 (starring Michael Biehn and Matt Craven), Meyers’ play was originally written and presented as a senior-thesis at Stanford University many years earlier, and first took off as a theatre piece in the early 1980s.
Beyond the obvious survival story, “K2” is also the story an oddly contentious friendship, with some thought-provoking social commentary thrown in for good measure.
Dubrovner has used the “staged reading” presentation with great success in the past. The format has two key benefits: first off, as a stand-alone fundraising event, it requires no sets or props, cutting overhead down to a bare minimum; second, it’s a real treat for both the audience and the actors, who can make the most of their roles and use the bare-bones stage to their advantage.
At the outset, Emily judiciously adds action and scene details as the narrator, and with no costumes, sets and sound effects to get in the way, Bridges and Lloyd were free to flesh out the scenes. Lloyd pantomimed the retrieval of some extra rope in the way a genuine climber might by plunging an ax into the ice, digging spiked boots into the sheer face and slowly climbing up a vertical wall, but it was the interplay on the shelf that really held the audience, and by more than just crampons, rope and carabiners.
Lloyd makes a perfect Taylor, a District Attorney, who questions not only his sanity for making the trek up K2, but also his job. He laments candidly his being paid to put away criminals, 70% of whom are black and products of what he sees as a flawed, liberal, handout-happy society. His life is contrast against that
of his best friend, Harold, and Beau Bridges was simply excellent as the eloquent and intellectual physicist, whose view of society is seen through the prism of love for his wife and recently-born son, and his analysis of both climbing and societal evolution via “gizmos,” “gadgets” and quantum physics.
Frankly, “K2” isn’t so much a play as it is a morality tale. Short on basic plot, it relies heavily on some well-written, though at times heady dialogue. On the upside, when delivered by two great actors, such as Lloyd and certainly Bridges, it does make for great theatre.
Much of the first half or so gives Lloyd a chance to really develop Taylor, whereas the play’s homestretch squarely belongs to Bridges, whose bonding with the audience early on in some of the play’s lighter and more philosophical moments pays off as his Harold faces his final minutes on Earth.
Bridges’ brother, Jeff (you might have heard of him), is on “something of a tear” in Hollywood these days, but Beau has hardly been idle. His film resume includes “The Other Side Of The Mountain,” “Norma Rae” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” not to mention a considerable body of TV work in shows such as “Stargate,” “The Closer” and “My Name Is Earl.”
On the small screen, he’s currently starring alongside Sally Field in ABC’s hit series “Brothers and Sisters,” and will soon be back on the big screen opposite George Clooney in “The Descendants.”
“Shira brought the play to us, and it made sense for a mountain town audience,” Bridges said. “We just love it up here.”
And Lloyd may be Bridges’ nephew, but isn’t one for trading on his famous uncle’s name, preferring to work his way up the old-fashioned way, doing roles on stage and background parts in movies such as “Iron Man.”
“I’ve been a waiter,” he quipped. “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?” Will we see him up here in more shows? “I’d love it. The audience [which gave up a standing-O] was great!”
Dubrovner was pleased with the show’s reception as well. “I went to L.A. to rehearse with them, and getting them up here with the weather was challenging (kudos to Mammoth Taxi), but it was so worth it. They were fantastic,” she enthused.
After the performance Bridges and Lloyd drew names for raffle prizes from local sponsors Eberle Winery, Kittredge Sports, The Mogul Restaurant, Mammoth Luxury Outlets, the Westin Monache and 80|50.
Edison Theatre sponsorships were for sale (Roma and Dave McCoy and Kathleen and Paul Rudder bought the very first pairs), and at least 12 more were sold that night.
Sitting next to a window, I had the sound of wind outside, and the “natural” sound effects only added to the experience, but it was Bridges and Lloyd who carried the audience to that ledge on K2. Mammoth is no stranger to celebrity, but Dubrovner’s production adds two great new stars and another major credit to our calling card as not only a resort destination, but a cultural one as well.
Proceeds from the evening benefit higher education and the arts in the Eastern Sierra. For more on the Mammoth Lakes Foundation, visit www.mammothlakesfoundation.org or call 760.934.3781.