Getting OpenAL (the open-source audio library) functional was a bit unreasonable, mostly because of the handy alutLoadWAVFile function for loading a WAV file that OpenAL used to have until it was removed, as far as I can tell, about forty seconds ago, thus every tutorial on the web pretty much assumes you still have it. Apple of course immediately yanked the function from the version of OpenAL they ship out, replacing it with nothing. After much hardship I eventually tracked down this posting on a developer mailing list by a guy -- no, a prince of a man, in fact a towering beacon of hope in a dark time -- named George Warner, offering up code that does what the old WAV loader did. I dropped it into my program and the unthinkable happened: it just worked. George Warner, you get Massachusetts's 12 electoral votes and the thanks of a grateful nation.
So to summarize the first week of effort: now I can play sounds, I can draw stuff on the screen (and scale/rotate/translate it, of course) and I can respond to keyboard input. That is in fact all the technology this game needs.