Theatre Mirror Reviews-"The 39 Steps"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"The 39 Steps"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Hendricken's fall show is "The 39 Steps". 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 four but in this version there are 22 performers playing 150 zany characters.. One actor plays the hero, Richard Hannay, three actresses play the three women he has romantic entanglements with and other performers play, heroes, villains, men, women, children and even the occasional inanimate object. 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. The plot is packed with intrigue, international danger, old-fashioned romance, high-spirited comedy and a death-defying finale that has to be seen to be believed. keeps the audience entertained and laughing all night long. Directors Richie Sylvia and Joe Fielding pick 22 performers to portray these madcap roles and infuses this show with some clever and hilarious shtick to keep the audience entertained and laughing all night long.

Since an audience might be unfamiliar with the show, I'll give a brief synopsis of it. 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 spy organization are closing in on Richard. This show is played for laughs and will keep you guessing and laughing all along the way. The second act is funnier than the first because the audience is familiar with the crazy characters.

Playing the leading role of Richard Hannay is Brian Duranleau who delivers a tour-de-force performance. He handles his enormous amount of dialogue with ease in this 100 page script and is excellent, appearing in almost every scene of the show. Brian as Hannay, is very dashing and debonair in this role, reminding the audience of a 1930's matinee idol. Brian first appears in the audience and speaks to them as the show begins. Some of his bits includes running away from the hoodlums while a radio announcer describes him, catching the hoodlums outside his window near a street lamp and when he steps through a window in the back of the house, spoofing "Rear Window". One of his funniest is a lecture he gives at an election rally as well as when he crawls out from Annabella's dead body. Richie and Joe give Brian topnotch direction and plenty of shtick to carry off this huge role.

The other 21 performers are quite funny, too. I will only be able to mention a few of them. Julia Paolino is a hoot in the show. She plays Annabella Schmidt, the mysterious German woman who shoots off a gun at the theatre and ends up dead with a knife in her back. Her death scene is hilarious. Kelly Robertson as Pamela who gets him arrested on the train, then ends up shackled to him at a Scottish Inn.  A couple of thugs Colin Murphy and Dylan Silveira capture Richard and Pamela and try to take them to the criminal mastermind. Two performers who steal many a scene are Dane Granja and Brendan McNamara who play multiple roles in this show including two Keystone Kops who keep losing their quarry on the train and other places. Brendan also plays an ugly broad in high heels, the wife of the spy ring. Seeing him run around the stage in heels has to be seen to be believed. Dane also plays a daffy hotel clerk with a deadpan expression. Jack Feld is marvelous as the evil and devious Professor Jordan. His sinister portrayal will leave you laughing in the aisles especially funny is his dance with Brendan as his wife who towers over him, lifting him in the air at the end of the dance. The others play numerous roles and steal many scenes along the way. The finale of the show is breathtaking and marvelous to behold and must remain a secret so the audience can enjoy it. So for a fun filled farce, be sure to catch "The 39 Steps". It is a slapstick Monty Pythonesque romp.

"The 39 Steps" (16 - 18 November)
@ 2614 Warwick Avenue, WAERWICK RI
1(401)739-3450 ext. 172

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide