BWW Review: Village's THE 39 STEPS Packed with Laughs but Lacks Pace
If you've ever seen Patrick Barlow's brilliant stage adaptation of the Hitchcock film "The 39 Steps" you know what a fast paced thrill ride it is. When I saw the Broadway touring production I thought I was going to pass out from laughter. Which is why I was a little let down by the current production at Village Theatre that still had some great laughs but not always that lightning fast pace that the show demands.
Hitchcock's film as well as the novel from John Buchan are examples of a classic noir thriller and Barlow's play takes that and amps up the noir style to 11. We follow our hero, Richard Hannay (Aaron Lamb) as his quiet life is upheaved by a sultry German woman (Emily Cawley) who is killed in his apartment making Hannay the prime suspect. And so he flees London to Scotland to try and track down the real killers as well as uncover the mystery of The 39 Steps. Along the way he's confronted by a bevy of women, cops, spies, innkeepers, underwear salesmen and even a sheep or three all played by Cawley, Orion Bradshaw and Chris Ensweiler.
The fun and genius of this show comes from three sides. There's the constant poking fun of the noir style and their attempt to put it up on stage, the fact that dozens of characters are being played by only four actors (and there are several scenes that have more than four characters in them) and the blistering pace making the piece a roller coaster ride where all you can do is hang on. Even the director's note in the program mentions that you just need to get out of the script's way. And that's where it misses the mark as they don't always get out of the way and so that blistering pace wavers. That's not to say they were always off but then again that means they weren't always on and so the show didn't quite have that spark it could have.
The cast is quite good and working quite hard up there but again, didn't feel settled in the shoW. Lamb was fun as was Cawley but both felt a little tentative about what they were doing. As opposed to Bradshaw and Ensweiler who grabbed the insanity and took off. Especially Bradshaw who's myriad facial expressions I could watch all day.
So the production is by no means bad and could settle into a nice groove over time. And so with my three letter rating system I give Village Theatre's "The 39 Steps" a YAY -. The point I'm making is if you've never seen a production of "The 39 Steps" before, it's worth catching for the staging alone. But if you have seen one and one that truly shone, then there's nothing from this one that would accentuate that.
"The 39 Steps" performs at Village Theatre in Issaquah through February 26th and then moves onto their Everett location running March 3rd through 26th. For tickets or information contact the Issaquah box office at 425-392-2202 or the Everett box office at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.