6/12/2011 The Portland Press Herald
’39 Steps’ runs at full throttle with over the top attitude,fun
by Steve Feeney
“The 39 Steps” a Tony Award winning comedy adapted from the legendary film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, has certainly proved popular with area theater companies. Portland Stage offered a production last fall and the Hackmatack Playhouse has scheduled a run for later this summer.
But right now the comic thriller/farce is paying a visit to the venerable Arundel Barn Playhouse and it starts the season off on a very high note.
The Patrick Barlow play, set in between-the-wars England, concerns Richard Hannay, one of those fictional “average” guys who turns out to be not so average. Hannay gets drawn into a no-one-knows-quite-what mystery by a femme fat-ale who is killed in his apartment. He then embarks on a harrowing journey where he encounters all manner of odd characters, sinister and silly-often both at the same time.
A backstage setting and many figurative and literal winks aimed at the audience give the show the sort of over-the-top theatrical attitude that draws everyone in on the fun. The allusions to other Hitchcock films alone make for a fun challenge for the crowd.
Judging from Friday’s performance, director Gary John LaRosa found just the right quartet of young actors to make the show work.
Matthew Krob, as Hannay, had the dashing, one eye-brow raise kind of spirit down perfectly as his character began to relish the intrigue of outwitting spies. He became that classic 1930s leading man as he eluded the authorities in his attempt to unravel the secret bestowed upon him by a shady lady. Whether hanging precariously from a railroad bridge or being menaced by airplanes, Krob’s Hannay was a charmer.
Jessica Morgan performed well in the exaggerated range of characters she was given. Her uneasy (in more ways than one) moments while handcuffed to the hero were highlights.
Robert Rice and Danny Prather went for the laughs as Englishmen, Scotsmen, salesmen, showmen, hoteliers and in numerous other roles. Rice particularly had a ball with those parts requiring him to wear a dress.
Credit should be given to a technical crew for the numerous lighting, sound and set changes. This is a show that needs to stay at or near full-throttle and the Arundel staff got it done.
Having fun with theatrical conventions while also paying tribute to how entertaining they still can be, this “39 Steps” is a winner
-Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who live in Portland