Monday, January 21, 2008
The 39 Steps
This is one of the zaniest, funniest shows I’ve ever seen. I laughed and laughed and came out of there feeling uplifted and about 25 years younger. Go see this show!
“The 39 Steps” is a wacky spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 movie of that name, and many other of his films as well. Four actors -- Charles Edwards, Jennifer Ferrin, Arnie Burton and Cliff Saunders -- take on all the characters -- more than 40! -- involved in this whodunit, which is part espionage thriller and part slapstick comedy. While it’s not unusual for actors to play more than one role in a show, Burton and Saunders often play more than one part at a time, quickly switching hats or employing other gimmicks to transform from one character to another, at one time playing nearly 10 characters in just a couple of minutes. I haven’t been so impressed by actors doing multiple duties since a Pearl Theatre Company production many years ago in which six actors played all the characters in Dickens’ “Hard Times.”
The show begins as Richard Hannay (Edwards) is lured into a world of intrigue by a mysterious woman claiming to be a spy. When she winds up dead in his flat, he flees London with the police hot on his trail. The four actors turn this into a hilarious escapade, making great use of a few props and their amazing -- often quite physical -- talents.
Maria Aitken, who directed of a hit London production, also stages this one. Patrick Barlow is responsible for the brilliantly comic stage adaptation, based on an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon and the novel by John Buchan in 1915.
"The 39 Steps," which won the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy for its London production, is scheduled to run through March 23 at the American Airlines Theatre. Visit roundabouttheatre.org for details.