Sunday, January 06, 2008

The 39 Steps

photo: T. Charles Erickson

This screwball spoof of the old Hitchcock suspense film isn't essentially unlike the movie send-ups from The Carol Burnett Show but it has an extra high-concept kick: three of the cast of four have to manage over a hundred different roles and the movie's story has to get told with only a few multi-purposed props and set pieces. (My favorite moment: when our debonair hero is led deeper and deeper into the villain's mansion, it's accomplished on stage by having him walk through the same repositioned door over and over again). Sometimes an actor will play four or five different characters in the same scene: we're meant to delight in the breakneck speed of the quick-changes which, although obviously planned down to the most minute detail, often feel as spomtaneous as genuine improvisation. The show may be spoofing a film, but it's mostly designed to make us laugh at the simple age-old tricks of theatre. I did laugh, but not nearly as often as I'd hoped to: a good deal of the gags are more clever than funny, and at ninety minutes the show outlasted my interest by about half an hour.


Esther said...

Awww, I'm sorry you were disappointed. I'll admit the second act was a little slow in spots (when I saw it in Boston), But overall, I thought it was really funny, very clever. I love the two "clowns" who do most of the character changes. I loved the chase aboard the train, the Hitchcock cameo. I just thought the whole thing was really inspired. And I did laugh a lot.

Patrick Lee said...

For me it's like Drowsy Chaperone: a fabulous concept, but not enough has been done with it to sustain ninety minutes. Once you've seen half an hour of it, you've essentially seen the whole show. I expect I'll be in the minority on this one too.