Thursday, January 17, 2008

The 39 Steps

Photo/Joan Marcus

Everything that was impressive about Gutenberg! The Musical! and The Eaten Heart is lost on the gigantic set of the American Airlines Theater (Famous last words: "It was supposed to be a cast of four! A cast of four!"): Maria Aitken's clever direction often just gets swallowed up, as does this trite farce, which runs out of steam at about the same time that Richard Hannay (Charles Edwards) gets fed up with his co-stars (Cliff Saunders and Arnie Burton): "That's enough," he says at last, confronted with yet another "inanimate object" blocking his midnight escape. Saunders, who has already juggled roughly thirty characters (like lovable Mr. Memory) obliges, scurrying offstage to change for his next role -- that of a terse innkeeper -- while Hannay and fellow handcuffee, Pamela (Jennifer Ferrin) walk around in circles wide enough to set up the next scene. It screams gimmick, and while the first half of the play is loud enough to be wholly entertaining (especially if you recognize key props from the Hitchcock film or listen for the constant puns: "No! Don't go out that way! Use the Rear Window!), the entire package is too big and sleek for its own good. That said, the ensemble ought to get a gold star for being such good sports: it takes a very special sort of skill to be that believably silly.

[Also blogged by: Patrick]

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