BWW Review: Scaling the Top of the World in Golden Shards' 8000M
Can you imagine how complete isolation must feel? As one of the characters explained it, where loneliness is embodied by every gigantic rock that must be overcome - each step taken bringing with it impending doom. With each breath, to feel your own vulnerability and combat the silence of the mountains which surround you. Those who climb to the top of the world's highest peaks choose to befriend isolation, to embrace it as a means towards freedom - as a way to feel truly alive.
The sheet of ice which separates these wonders of the human race from those curious to know more about them is finally shattered with this riveting play called 8000M. Coming from a sold out run this past November in San Diego, 8000M now brings our experience of live theater - literally - to new heights.
Written by David Greig, joined by MFA award-winning director Alice Cash and presented by Golden Shards Productions, 8000M encompasses such a wide range of dramatic feats - not just taking into account the play's actual subject matter. From an exceptional script, which combines both characters' personal accounts and plot-driving narrative to tell a riveting story, to actors who bring the experience of climbing the world's fourth largest mountain to an audience with such honed skill, 8000M is so substantial in its quality. To bring this daring climb up Lhotse (nestled in the Himalayas) to life, the cast actually partnered with Manhattan Plaza Health club to not only act the part, but to experience the sensation of climbing in their very bones. Paired with talkbacks with professional climbers, this production brings to New York an extremely well thought-out, comprehensive experience of what true, undying passion feels like - and the strength is gives to those who follow it.
8000M follows a rather unorthodox group to the Himalayas, where they set their sights on the summit of Lhotse. Among them is their fearless leader, who has participated in expeditions for decades prior, a young man who trains especially hard just to be included; he brings with him his girlfriend, a poet who is given the task of writing a book on her experience of climbing the fourth highest peak in the world. In the not-so- distant background is a famed (and female) climber, quiet and evasive but eager to feel the freedom of being out there - of doing what she loves, even with the risk of severing her relationship with her family. 8000M takes us from moment to moment, showing the audience the levels of intense preparation and nerve-wracking times which happen before these characters even set their sights on Lhotse.
From there, the anticipation rises as they demonstrate a mix of excitement and apprehension, emboldened by their progress but also affected by the reality of their situation. The air is thin, and one's endurance is not always as reliable as you would believe. Known characters morph into secondary ones to continue the narrative outside of what is happening on stage; there are many stories happening at once, all related to this group's desire to pave a new way - a route never traveled - up the side of this mountain. From flashbacks to present day, to characters and their comical antics behind closed tents, this play is such an admirable display of talent and ingenuity - truly all across the board.
From female empowerment to following a dream that lives in the very core of one's heart, 8000M encompasses every feeling, every step that puts us in line with where we ultimately wind up. There is such a beautiful story that unfolds on stage, but beautiful in a sense that is not fantastical or farfetched; these characters represent those select few who have chosen to embrace fear in the form of the perpetual thrill of climbing to the very top. The female characters in our story are not superheroes or boastful of their involvement; they are humble and join the expedition because of an innate desire to be there; they ultimately lead the team to victory. There are no exaggerated qualities or feelings of heroism; these are real people who grasp onto their lives and hold on tight, and they were human enough to bring the audience right alongside on their journey upward. Through these characters and just who they are is enough to make this such a realistic work...even if 8,000 meters seems a bit far!
I very much enjoyed this show - from the cast to creative team, there is such solid control over everything the audience experiences from beginning to end; everyone knew exactly direction in which they wanted this production to go. Kudos must be given to all those involved: on stage, we have Ashley Underwood, Ellie MacPherson, Jak Watson, Joseph Lyle Dunn, Nick Chris and Patrick Horn. On the creative side is Patrick Rizzotti (Set Designer), Mark Van Hare (Sound Designer) and Izzy Fields (Costume Designer). Also a big thank you to Vino Vinyasa, who provided a wonderful yoga session prior to the show. Focusing on wine education, we lingered in lizard pose while listening to the history of pinot grigio. Following that was a wine tasting, where my group acted like true connoisseurs for a day.
8000M, directed by Alice Cash and presented by Golden Shards Productions, is currently in performances at the John DeSotelle Studio, located at 754 9th Avenue (4th floor). The production's run is from May 3rd thru May 19th. Tickets are $15-$25 and can be purchased by clicking here. The performance schedule is as follows: May 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18th @ 2pm; May 4,5,11,12,18 and 19th @ 8 pm. To learn more about 8000M, please visit www.goldenshards.com or find them on Facebook (@goldenshardsproductions) and Instagram (@goldenshards).
Enjoy the show!
Photo Credit: Allyson Ta and Golden Shards Productions