The 39 Steps – best known as Hitchcock’s 1935 suspense thriller, began as John Buchan’s melodramatic novel (first published in 1915) that was adapted and reinvented by Patrick Barlow from Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon’s original concept.
And, while the “espionage page-turner” is still intact (word for word), The 39 Steps has morphed into a whole new genre, a killer comedy that has got to be one of the funniest shows on the stage.
Take four actors, give them a wordy script and over 150 parts to play, make physical comedy a big part of the show, throw in an homage to Hitchcock’s most memorable films, add gunshots, strobe lights, and fog, and Ouila! – Stage Door Repertory Theatre’s current production of the tongue and cheek The 39 Steps is ready for action!
Director, Nick Charles, showcases the breathless energy of these four actors: Cook as Hannay, Erica Marie as Annabella, Pamela, and Margaret, Justin Budds as Clown 1 and David Michael Sakach as Clown 2 with an eruption of action and a crisp and aphoristic witty pace.
Scene changes are a frenetic part of the show as the actors hustle to move furnishings on and off the stage. Nearly every scene includes some kind of witty banter, physical action, quick change or hilarious pun that is so obvious and silly that belly laughter from the audience is inevitable. If any ridiculously funny moment is lost, it doesn’t matter because the fast pace of the pratfalls keeps the storyline swiftly moving along.
As lead actor Jason Cook (Richard Hannay) tells me, “It’s a workout!” As Hannay, Jason Cook is as suave and debonair as any blonde wavy-haired English gentleman should be – (a new fair-haired James Bond, perhaps?), and whether he is slithering out from underneath a dead girl on a leather chair, or falling off a bridge, he remains the cool, slightly vain British hero without a doubt.
Justin Budds and David Michael Sakach portray characters of all ages and genders, and the two of them frolic through their roles with Monty Pythonish dedication. The drop-dead gorgeousness (pun possibly intended) of Erica Marie does not override her ability to vamp it up as the mysterious femme fatale with the horrible accent, the sassiness of the Hitchcock blonde bombshell, nor the poor mistreated innocence of the pigtailed farmer’s wife. She is everything to every role, and her transformations are on pointe.
The story itself is almost incidental to the amusement of watching the action on stage; however, it does take Hannay on a journey with international spies, cops, several other interesting characters, moments of sexual tension, and a chase that takes the rather bored Englishman on the romp of a lifetime. The physical escapades and slapstick shenanigans are worth the price of admission and one of my favorite scenes is seeing the actors all crawl out of a frame that is supposed to represent a window. The incidental music is the perfect mood setter which adds a delicious flavor to the melodrama 39 Steps once was.
Director/Lighting and Sound Design: Nick Charles; Sound Design: John McQuay; Costumes: Julie Charles, The Theatre Company, the Cast.
Stage Door Repertory Theatre 1045 Armando St Ste A Anaheim, CA 92806.
For Tickets 714 630.7378 or online at www.stagedoorrep.org.
Runs through April 27, 2019.