Beverly FriendTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

The 39 Steps – Two Reviews

Adapted by Patrick Barlowthe 39 steps national tour

Directed by Maria Aitken

Broadway Across America

Sure steps – no trip-ups – in Hitchcock spoof

If ever actors merited a standing ovation, it is this cast of four. And they got it!

The basic plot of 39 Steps follows the 1935 Hitchcock film: bored London Bachelor Richard Hannay (Ted Deasy)  meets stunning Annabella Schmidt (Claire Brownell) who is murdered before his eyes, but not before she has told him of her work as a counter espionage agent and given him tantalizing clues to halt the spies. Accused of her murder, he flees to Scotland to uncover the spy ring and thwart them.

the 39 steps national tour

Along the way Hanna  encounters Pamela, a blond bombshell (also played by Brownell ) who becomes his new romantic interest, and policemen, murderers, entertainers, double agents, railroad conductors, innkeepers, frumpy housewives and the like, all superbly played by Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson).

Patrick Barlow’s hilarious adaptation does not limit itself to one movie – it includes delicious slices from and references to other major Hitchcock films – most especially North by Northwest., Rear Window, and Vertigo.  The cast amazingly recreates vivid and dramatic scenes including the one where an airplane piloted by villains chases Cary Grant through the cornfields and another when our hero precariously scampers across the tops of rapidly traveling railroad cars!

In a clever shadow puppet scene, there is even the traditional, pot-bellied Hitchcock silhouette.

the 39 steps national tour

Nothing is impossible for this crew of four whose physical comedy and timing is impeccable and whose body language often hilariously moves in synch.  They dart amid the minimal props with amazing swiftness, donning and removing trench coats and hats, pivoting in circles as they shift from character to character, confronting themselves and each other in ever-varied roles.  Kudos to award-winning movement director Toby Sedgwick and Christopher Bayes for additional movement in their outstanding work.

If you’ve never seen a Hitchcock film, you will find this comedy stands on its own. However, the evening is a special treat for Hitchcock aficionados.

Highly Recommended

Beverly Friend

At Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8th St, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Tickets $15-60, Tuesdays through  Saturdays 8 pm. Saturdays 2 pm Sundays 2 and 7:30 pm Running time is 2 hours including 15-minute intermission through Feb. 28. This show is on a National tour that will eventually play in Chicago.

Tom Williams  Chicago Review of The 39 Steps National Tour

At the Bank of America Theatre, Chicago

I saw the same cast that Beverly Friend saw in Ft. Lauderdale last February. I agree with everything Beverly Friend has written about 39 Steps in the above review. 39 Steps featured a Chicago actor, Scott Parkinson who was one of our elite classical actors demonstrating his comic skills as he sports several authentic English accents while doing several quick changes to play assortment of  unique characters. He is joined by the fabulous comic talents of Erik Hissom and Claire Brownnell. These three interact and foil leading man Richard Hannay (the delightfully lovable Ted Deasy) through the mayhem of this quite funny spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s  classic film The 39 Steps. This amazing show is filled with smart retorts and clever sight gags.

the 39 steps national tour

The physical comedy demands split-second timing as the parody of British mystery films lends itself to wonderful comic moments. Director Maria Aitken takes no prisoners  as she deftly exudes every laugh imaginable (and some she milks to our delight). Cleverness, polish together with slap-stick and physicality allow for so many belly laughs that you’ll enjoy a marvelously frivolous and totally enticing evening of theatre with this show. The 39 Steps is a most original and truly hilariously entertaining comedy that plays out unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. I never realized how funny a murder mystery could be! It is smart, polished and wild, don’t miss it.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

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