BWW Review: THE 39 STEPS Lead You to Laughs at Theatre Tuscaloosa
If you made a smoothie with Monty Python, Mel Brooks, Marx Brothers and Bugs Bunny, the flavor would be called "The 39 Steps". This is a fun comedy that in no way shape or form takes itself seriously. The play 's comedy structure has roots in the films Keaton used to make. No, not Michael, I'm talking about Buster. (Honestly, who would want to see a stage version of Mr. Mom?) The fast pace of the show leaves not a moment to spare. Its creativity leads to a wonderfully expressive and entertaining performance. Taking cues from the playbook of comedy greats, "The 39 Steps" deliver colorful characters doing every comedy gag know in theater. Silly characters, props, spit takes, funny hats, wigs, trench coats, and even bi-planes.
Lets cut to the plot shall we. In Hitchcock's 1935 original film version, Richard Hannay is a 37ish - year-old Canadian bachelor living his meager life in 1930s London. One fateful night as in every film noir story, a mysterious dame on the run from spies comes a knocking at his door. Sultry Annabella Schmidt spills the beans on intercepted spy bosses plans. She begs Richard to hide her until the morning so she can skip town when the coast is clear. Well during the night she kinda, sorta gets murdered, prompting Richard to flee the country to find the leader of the spy ring.
In 2006 writer Patrick Barlow's adapted that film into this play that is glowing with comedy gold. Barlow took the original plot and broke it down into a film noir comedy with only four actors and literally a few boxes of props. Richard Hannay is played by not so 37ish year-old Gary Wise. The hilarious Drew Baker brings Annabella Schmidt to life. The chemistry these two share is up there with Carol Burnett and Tim Conway. They feed off each other and bring much hilarity.
Rounding out the cast are two of the most talented actors I have ever seen work the stage. The rest of the 150 characters in the show are performed by outstanding actors Jeff Wilson (Clown 1) and Dylan Guy Davis (Clown 2). They bring awe-inspiring comedic character work, timing and commitment to the roles. These men are like animated cartoons on stage, seamlessly moving from one role to another in a matter of seconds. The quick pace leaves no room to lag. Wilson and Davis rise to the occasion and make sure each character is identifiable and interesting.
Multiple sets come to life in a blink of an eye. The set is peppered with minimal items that are swished around the stage in scenes. Much of the joy is constructing what you don't see with what you do. The euphoric laughs keep your imagination riveted. I found myself at times feeling as if I was watching a Warner Brothers cartoon. (More Bugs than Yakko, Wackko and Dot) The plot moves along with a kaleidoscope of over the top characters in a 30's detective style.
Director Michael Thomas Walker assembled this talented cast. He skillfully juggled the many elements in this medley of a performance with style. The result brings waves after waves of laughs. Walker works the stage with vaudeville flair to make the most out of the character. Major kudos to scenic, sound and lighting designer Wheeler Kincaid. His amazing work beams with coordinated imagination. The stage is framed to be a vast opera house with balconies on either side. Below the arch is an open black box like space with a handful of items scattered about. Steamer trunks, doorframe, leather recliner are just a few. Everything is on rollers so the players can quickly move them around from one scene to the next.
I enjoyed this performance for it got honest laughs with creative techniques and hilarious actors. "The 39 Steps" is closing this weekend. You don't want to miss out on a performance that is one of a kind. Theatre Tuscaloosa gives an impressive comedy performance in "The 39 Steps". The 40th step is to go back for more laughs and see it again.
"The 39 Steps"
Adapted by Patrick Barlow
Novel by John Buchan
From the movie of Alfred Hitchcock
Scenic, sound and lighting designer - Wheeler Kincaid
Showtimes (FINAL 4 SHOWS)
Sept 28 - Oct 1, 2017
Thur/Fri/Sat 7:30PM (Sunday Matinee - 2PM)
Tickets and more info at (205) 391-2227 and www.theatretusc.com
Bean-Brown Theater (on the campus of Shelton State Community College)
9500 Old Greensboro Road
Tuscaloosa, AL 35405
The play contains gun shots on stage along with moving planes, trains and automobiles.