When asked in 1923 why he wanted to climb the highest mountain in the world, English mountaineer George Mallory replied, “Because it's there.” This somewhat apocryphal quote, often called the three most famous words in mountaineering, easily could have been the motivation for the two climbers in Patrick Meyers' play. With the world's second-highest mountain as its terrifyingly harsh backdrop, this intimate story revolves around life-or-death decisions made on a ledge at 27,000 feet where Taylor (Jake Suffian) and Harold (Sean Galuszka) are trapped after an accident that cost them Harold's leg, as well as one of only two climbing ropes they had. While Taylor desperately tries to recover the lost rope, he and Harold converse on a range of topics, from the mundane to the profane to the profound. The palpable sense of danger throughout the piece is realized through a powerful combination of the actors' performances, designer Laura Fine Hawkes' bare-bones mountain set, and Leigh Allen's icy-blue lighting. Even the decision to keep the theater below room temperature adds to the ambience. Director Damen Scranton successfully pushes his actors to the limit, eliciting from Galuszka quiet moments of introspection that contrast with Suffian's volcanic outbursts of emotion — both of which reveal the characters gaining perspective while paradoxically losing their sanity. Ellie Follett's authentic costumes complete the picture, with her choices of snow gear effectively taking us back to 1977. So why should you see this play? Because it's there. Underground Theater, 1314 N. Wilton Place, Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Nov. 14. (800) 838-3006, K2LA.org.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Oct. 9. Continues through Nov. 14, 2010

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