Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The 39 Steps"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"The 39 Steps"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The fall show at Theatre by the Sea is "The 39 Steps". Ocean State Theatre Company, the not-for-profit producing entity at the historic Theatre by the Sea, presents a special 2011 bonus presentation and the regional premiere. The show is a farce adapted from the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock. The play's concept calls for the entirety of the 1935 adventure film to be performed by a cast of only four. One actor plays the hero, Richard Hannay, an actress plays the three women with whom he has romantic entanglements, and the other two actors play every other character in the show:heroes, villains, men, women, children and even the occasional inanimate object. This often requires lightning fast quick changes and occasionally for them to play multiple characters at once. Thus the film's serious spy story is played mainly for laughs, and the script is full of allusions to and puns on the titles of other Alfred Hitchcock films, including Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo and North by Northwest. This version mixes the Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you have "The 39 Steps", Broadway's longest running comedy. This two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award-winner is a fast-paced, hilarious whodunit which features 150 zany characters portrayed by four actors in a plot packed with intrigue, international danger, old-fashioned romance, high-spirited comedy and a death-defying finale that has to be seen to be believed. Director Amiee Turner picks four fantastic performers to portray these madcap roles and infuses her show with some clever and hilarious schtick to keep the audience entertained and laughing all night long. Amiee pays homage to Hitchcock in a chase scene in the show with silhouettes. Her expertise is rewarded with a thunderous ovation at the close of the show.

This show marks Ocean State Theatre's debut of a fall show. Urbane, bored Richard Hannay, is at a London theatre, attending a demonstration of the remarkable powers of "Mr. Memory", a man with a photographic memory. There is a plot to steal vital British military secrets, implemented by the head of an espionage organization called "The 39 Steps". The show follows the travails of Hannay and how he comes to solve this puzzling mystery. He makes eyes at a mysterious woman at the theater, returns with her to his London town home where the woman turns up dead. With no more than that, Richard is cast into a headlong run for his life as a mysterious spy organization alternately pursues and is pursued by him, from London to Scotland and back, as he fights to clear himself of the murder. Along the way, he is hindered and helped by the beautiful, upstanding Pamela, who despite her best efforts, ends up shackled, literally, to a man she thinks is a murderer. Meanwhile, the police and the spy organization are closing in on Richard. This show is played at breakneck speed and will keep you guessing and laughing all night long. The set pieces are easily moved on and off stage. They are used to their utmost especially the doors being turned as the characters enter them.

Playing the leading role of Richard is Fred Rose. He handles his enormous amount of dialogue with ease and is splendid. Fred is very dashing and debonair in this role, reminding the audience of a 1930's matinee idol. One of his funniest bits is when he steps through a small photo frame, spoofing "Rear Window". Three of the woman are played wonderfully by Jennifer Bryne. Annabella Schmidt, the mysterious German woman who shoots off a gun at the theatre and ends up dead with a knife in her back. The knife scene is hilarious as Fred crawls out from under her dead stiff body.The British Pamela who gets him arrested on the train, then ends up shackled to him at a Scottish Inn. She is integral to the plot in this part. Jennifer is a hoot as Margaret, the Scottish wife with pigtails as she cowers under the scrutiny of her blustering husband while helping Richard out. She creates memorable characters and delivers many laughs along the way. The other two performers are Jason Parrish and Brandon Roberts who play numerous roles are outstanding and are the biggest scene stealers in this farce. They change sets and costumes at a split second and at one point play 8 different characters by just changing hats. The finale of the show is breathtaking and marvelous to behold and must remain a secret so the audience can enjoy it. The amazing set is by Ray Recht while the lighting designer is Eileen Smitheimer and sound designer is Ryan McGinty. So for a laugh out loud farce with many twists and turns and surprises along the way, be sure to catch "The 39 Steps". Looking forward to Theatre by the Sea's shows next season, "Forever Plaid", "The Sound of Music", "9 to 5" and "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying".

"The 39 Steps (8 - 18 September)
THEATRE BY THE SEA
@ 364 Cards Pond Road, MATUNUCK RI
1(401)782-8587

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