Thursday, February 11, 2010
Hilarious, Precise "39 Steps" at Parker Playhouse
Hitchcock’s’ “39 Steps” Becomes a Frothy Brew of ensemble Entertainment
By Skip Sheffield
Alfred Hitchcock was never like this, but somehow I think he would have approved of the stage spoof “39 Steps,” running through Feb. 28 at Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.
“39 steps” is not only hilarious; it is a fast-paced tour de force for four actors, playing all the roles in the 1935 Hitchcock movie.
There are nine principal roles in the movie, and the adaptation by Patrick Barlow adheres faithfully to the plot while making references to other Hitchcock movies.
What makes the multiple roles even more amazing is that the main character, a Canadian man named Richard Hannay (Ted Deasy) stays in his character throughout while one woman and two men play all eight additional roles.
Hannay is the classic Hitchcock “innocent man.” Bored in London, he decides to take in a night of theater.
The main act is a mentalist named Mr. Memory (Eric Hissom), who is assisted by a man (Scott Parkinson) who prompts the audience to ask obscure and complicated questions.
In his box seat Hannay spies an exotic dark-haired woman with a German accent.
A shot rings out; there is pandemonium in the audience and the woman, whose name is Annabella Schmidt (Claire Brownell) begs Hannay to take her home, saying she is “being pursued.”
As a gallant gentleman Hannay cannot refuse nor take advantage of the exotic woman. At some point at night Annabelle staggers into the living room where he has been sleeping in a chair, and Hannay discovers a large dagger in the woman’s back and a map of Scotland in her hand.
As she expires, Annabella mentions a certain house in Scotland and a man’s name and adds the cryptic words “39 Steps.”
In the morning Hannay learns he is a wanted man and flees, disguised as a milkman, on a train to Scotland.
Under Maria Aitken’s lickety-split direction, the set up is quicker than the time it takes to write about it.
On the train Hannay encounters another woman, Pamela, and in Scotland a farmer’s young wife, both played by Claire Brownell, as well as the farmer, secret agents, police, agents impersonating police, a Professor Jordon and a political rally organizer, all played by Hissom and Parkinson, in and out of drag, in lightning costume changes, using minimal props, maximum body language and a variety of exaggerated accents.
In short “39 Steps” is a marvel ensemble effort that combines pantomime, dance, juggling and pratfalls in a frothy brew that makes you want to toast the British film genius who inspired it all.
Tickets are $15-$50 and may be reserved by calling 954-462-0222, 800-982-2787 or by visiting www.broadwayacrossamerica.com.