"The 39 Steps" Entertains and Impresses

Apr 12, 2011

Love whodunits?  Can’t get enough of classic Hitchcock movies? Enjoy a good sight gag?   “The 39 Steps,” now playing at Hartford Stage, will captive and entertain you from beginning to end.  Hartford Stage says of its current production:

Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you have the hilarious Tony Award-winning hit Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps.” In Patrick Barlow’s stage adaptation of the film, from the novel by John Buchan, a beautiful spy leaks a deadly secret to a man she’s just met. With that, our hero suddenly finds himself embroiled in a high-speed chase across England and Scotland, dodging police, charming ladies, and uncovering clues at every turn.

Characteristic of Patrick Barlow’s work, the entire tale is told with a wink to the audience as they are included in the “production” of the show.   ‘This is a knowing, self-reflexive approach to theatre that says “look, we know we’re in a theatre, and we know you’re there, so let’s just have a good time shall we?’”1  And have a good time you will. 

“The 39 Steps” incorporates backstage action as part of show’s humor:  the ominous mood music is turned on and off by an actor clearly visible behind the action. Set pieces become characters themselves:  two mysterious spies carry their lamppost with them on and off stage so they have a place to lurk beneath the hero’s window.  It’s not a scene change, it’s part of the story and part of the joke.

The impeccable timing and physicality of the actors make each scene come to life with very little reliance on set dressing and props.  A particularly memorable scene has two cast members recreating a classic chase sequence on top of a train.  They waive their trench coats behind them for wind and rock back and forth on top of the rail cars which are simple scaffolding on wheels.  You can practically see the train cars roaring under their feet while they fight the wind, all the while laughing along with the actors as they create the drama with humorous flair.

Each scene is clever, humorous and blatantly reminiscent of classic spy films.  Each actor and their combined 150 characters entertain you from the time the curtain rises until the last gunshot is fired.  Don’t miss the Hartford Stage’s production of “The 39 Steps” running now until May 1st. 

For ticket information go to:  www.hartfordstage.org1.  Dick Johns “The 39 Steps Teaching Resource Packet” for the Mousetrap Foundation’s Study Guide.