Sharr White

Ain’t no mountain high enough

Third Rail Rep's "Annapurna" dives into the depths of middle-age regret from the heights of the mountaintop

Sharr White’s two-person play Annapurna drops us into the center of a hellhole surrounded by the snow-peaked Rockies, the infinite crags and features of the mountains that cut the country in half with an immense buckle. The mountains are so high in some places that it snows in July at the crests. Sunburns happen all year ’round, and oxygen becomes rarer with the elevation.

Here, in this alpine isolation, director Isaac Lamb, actors Karen Trumbo and Bruce Burkhartsmeier, and Third Rail Rep take on the vistas of middle-age regrets. We’re in a trailer, the kind owned by a fugitive. Scenic designer Kay Blankenship has us in years-old soaked grime, grease, and perma-dust that has settled and become a petrified feature of the longhouse hovel. The trailer looks like the backseat of a teenager’s car cluttered with moldy food cartons, curdled milk bottles, dirty laundry, and trash. The only elements that seem missing from this realistic set are random hairs or nail clippings, but no one would want to look that closely. If this home is a picture of the owner, the owner is a hot mess.

Burkartsmeier and Trumbo: the height of depths. Photo: Owen Carey

Burkhartsmeier and Trumbo: the height of depths. Photo: Owen Carey

The king of this ragged castle is Ulysses, played by Burkhartsmeier, whom we meet for the first time in his natural state except for an apron made from an old towel tied around his waist. He’s a large man who’s settled onto the path of aging, but his crystal-clear eyes still beam from beneath their almond lids. He carries a hyper-blue backpack that slings a tube around the front of his face and is held into his nostrils. It’s oxygen. His dog is that dog of the neighborhood, the one who won’t quit barking day or night. It could be neuroticism, idiocy, or a mean streak, but all understanding aside, it’s damn annoying. Just when you suppose you’re not uncomfortable enough, Ulysses’ ex-wife comes through the door.

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