As I was walking out of the Curran Theatre, I heard an older woman proclaim, “I just don’t think those young people actually get it. They would have to look it up on that twittering thing to find out what Hitchcock is. ” Twittering thing? Really? I think you meant wiki, not twitter. Funny thing was, the older gentleman sitting in front of me said something similar at intermission, “I just don’t think those young people would be able to understand this show with all of those references to Hitchcock.” And he continued,”You know, I worked with Hitchcock once.” Congratulations, you are old as hell. I’m here to tell you (as a twenty-something) that The 39 Steps can be enjoyed (even loved) no matter what age you are and I didn’t have to look up anything on twitter. Instead, I was tweeting about how much I loved the show at intermission.
There’s a lot more to The 39 Steps than just Hitchcock references (though the references to Hitchcock’s movies – North by Northwest, Pyscho, and even Birds – were extremely funny and well done). First off, the acting by these four actors – Ted Deasy, Claire Brownell, Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson – are brilliant. The sheer robustness of all four roles were incredible; there are between 100-150 roles in this production. They have to play multiple people in the same scene and sometimes even in the same breath.
The 39 Steps is adapted from the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock. Patrick Barlow’s adaptation is quite riveting throughout; I didn’t even notice that almost 6o minutes had gone by before intermission started. I was too busy laughing. The story follows a hapless man in a tweed suit, Richard Hannay, who becomes entangled in an espionage conspiracy and framed for murder. Just like in any Hitchcock film, the most vital information is kept secret from the actors and audience throughout the entire show until the last second. Even with all of the comedic lunacy, the thrill is kept intact throughout – it keeps the audience guessing and on the edge of their seat. That is why Barlow’s adaptation and Maria Aitken’s direction is so successful.
The most jaw-dropping element of this production was the choreography. I’ve seen “dance musicals” with less choreography than this show. Everything, down to the eyebrow raise, was choreographed, timed out to the millisecond and yet, there was no music for this choreography. It all dealt with the internal rhythm of the piece. At points, it seemed almost impossible that they could be working this closely in tandem. It was seriously jaw-dropping.
There’s a reason that this show is the longest running play on Broadway right now. You’ll walk away from the theatre (regardless of your age) having a ridiculously good time. And sometimes, we all really just need a ridiculously good time.
Dec 9, 2009 – Jan 3, 2010
Running time: 2 hrs (including 20 min intermission)