BWW Reviews: THE 39 STEPS at Skyline Theater
When "The 39 Steps" first appeared in London and subsequently on Broadway, it was hailed as a triumphant comedy not to be missed and honored with numerous awards and nominations including the Olivier Award for Best Comedy. The fact it won a Drama Desk Award for "Unique Theatrical Experience" and ran for two years on Broadway should explain much. It truly is very unique.
Skyline Theater in Fairlawn, NJ ends their 12th season presenting this hysterical send-up to British film noir at the George Frey Center for Arts and Recreation Center. Written by Patrick Barlow and based on the Alfred Hitchcock 1935 British thriller, the play centers around a man falsely accused of murder who attempts to stop a spy organization from stealing top secrets. Not what one would assume as the basis for a comedy, but told with only four actors portraying numerous characters with quick changes, the pacing of a Carol Burnett sketch, and nods to several Hitchcock films - and you have true hilarity on stage.
New York actor Dustin Charles stars as Richard Hannay - the man on the run. He is the epitome of the dashing and debonair leading man. His take of a raised eyebrow, flexible body, and booming voice all add to his charming performance. His race through the "train" is worth the price of admission. Charles takes on double duty in this production by co-directing it with Skyline Artistic Director Sam Scalamoni. The two have created an elaborate acting playground fraught with 'suspense' and humor for the four actors to present this entertaining jaunt; never allowing the pace to falter.
New York actress Emily Larger plays the three female roles in the show and she is wonderfully adept at changing each of those with completely different looks and sublime performances. Her credits include the national tour of "The 39 Steps" and it shows that she is no stranger to these women or showing a varied approach to each of them.
Working extremely hard in this show playing over 100 other characters are New Jersey actors David Neal and Lionel Ruland. Wow! What these men go through in the course of a night is brutal - and hilarious! Constantly changing clothes, wigs, and personalities; a huge kudos must go out to both of them for their talent and stamina...and someone get them both a Redbull -stat!
The creative team of Duane McDevitt on sets, Patricia Nichols on lights, and the 5th character of Seth Asa's sound design has transported this play well beyond '39' steps in the heights in which they climb. The beauty of this piece is that groups can present it in many ways depending on their budget. This production makes great use of props and set pieces to continually turn them into multiple things. Each detail deftly adds to the tone and mood of the piece.
I love witnessing a play where you can tell the actors are enjoying every moment they are on stage and that is obvious in Skyline's fast-paced production. They say comedy is always harder to master than a drama. Bravo, Skyline! You have done it with this laugh-out-loud hit!
"The 39 Steps" will be performed at the George Frey Center for Arts and Recreation, 10-10 20th Street, Fairl Lawn, NJ, Friday May 10th at 7:30, Saturday May 11th at 2:00 and 7:30, and Sunday May 12th at 2:00. For reservation please call 800-474-1299 or visit www.skylinetheatrecompany.org