BWW Review: THE 39 STEPS at Gretna Theatre
The 39 Steps is a prime example of big things coming in small packages. The cast of four expertly portray over 150 characters in a show with aspects of espionage, mystery, thrills, and comedy...lots and lots of comedy.
39 Steps is based, loosely, on the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. Like many of Hitch's best, it focuses on an innocent man accused of a crime he did not commit and the race to clear his name. The hero of this story is Richard Hannay played by Josh Carpenter. Carpenter must serve as the backbone of the show. He only plays one character and is required to do a lot of reacting to the craziness that is thrust upon him. Carpenter has a suave demeanor and would fit in among Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart or many of the other icons popular in the heyday of the silver screen.
Hanley Smith plays all three major female roles in the show. She makes each very distinct. They run the gamut from a mysterious foreigner to the damsel in distress. She has good chemistry with Carpenter when they share the stage together.
Cliff Miller and Robert Meksin are listed in the program as "clown #1" and "clown #2". They are responsible for breathing life into the show's 145 plus other characters, including police officers, train conductors, spies, entertainers, husbands and wives, and airplane pilots. They share a manic energy that makes their lightening fast quick changes look effortless. However, I would not be surprised if they spent the intermission flopped over on the green room couch catching their breath. They wore me out just watching them; I can't imagine what it is like to do the show twice in the same day.
The play is very imaginative and quite playful. The actors need be skilled in mime, dialects, quick changes, and have impeccable comic timing. I really do not want to say much more at risk of spoiling some of the gags.
The 39 Steps plays at the Gretna Theatre through August 5th. If today's attendance was an indication of the show's popularity, I would recommend buying tickets sooner rather than later. You can buy them and find out more about the show at the theater website.