Say the identify Alfred Hitchcock and one is instantly thrust into the world of movie noir—frenetic chase scenes, stark, minimalist landscapes, and the hapless everyman turned unsuspecting sufferer and suspect. Alfred Hitchcock had already produced a collection of profitable films, when in 1935, The 39 Steps, filmed in England, introduced him worldwide recognition, and helped launch his decades-long Hollywood profession. Loosely primarily based on the 1915 novel of the identical identify, Hitchcock’s movie is fraught with menace from unknown overseas powers, echoing the local weather in Europe on the time. “The 39 Steps” at present taking part in in Ellenville, just isn’t that Alfred Hitchcock. Properly, it’s. A bit.
Because the play opens, a reflective Richard Hannay ruminates on his nonconsequential life, however shortly leads the viewers into what is actually a two-hour-long flashback. We’re alongside Hannay in a London theater as “Mr. Reminiscence,” a music corridor performer, astounds us together with his expertise of recall and encyclopedic data of all issues trivial. A shot rings out, and panic ensues. Hannay finds himself accosted by a frightened girl who urges him to take her again to his flat. There, she weaves a story of espionage, homicide, and army secrets and techniques. All of this appears to nestle neatly throughout the Hitchcockian trope, however that’s the place the similarities finish.
“The 39 Steps” wove a circuitous path earlier than touchdown at Shadowland Phases Studio in Ellenville. Based mostly on the 1915 novel by John Buchan, and later famously tailored by Alfred Hitchcock, “The 39 Steps” was reconceived within the early 2000s by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, then reworked once more in 2008, by Patrick Barlow. That is that delightfully absurd incarnation at present working at Shadowland Phases by way of July 9.
A forged of 4, led by Eric Bryant as Richard Hannay, and Laura Cable because the mysterious Annabelle Schmidt, deal with the daunting job of embodying over 50 characters. Bryant has the one single function, as Hannay. Cable performs all three feminine lead characters: Annabelle, Margaret, and Pamela. That leaves the opposite two gamers—Jessica López-Barkl and Andy McCain—a staggering 50-plus roles between them. Achieved by using lightning-quick accent adjustments, bodily idiosyncrasies, and the extraordinarily efficient use of clothes and different props, the actors convincingly painting a number of roles inside every scene, generally performing reverse themselves.
What stops this gimmick from turning into simply one other played-out theatrical conceit is the truth that this manufacturing of “The 39 Steps” would not take itself too significantly. Brendan Burke, Shadowland’s inventive director, directs the present, creating an surroundings the place the actors are self-aware and generally break the fourth wall. In a scene that threatens to go on barely too lengthy as López-Barkl cycles endlessly between characters, doffing one hat after one other, Hannay impatiently calls out, “Come on, let’s get on with it!” bringing an finish to the mayhem. López-Barkl and McCain apologize to the viewers when their props don’t fairly ship the realism they’re imagined to. And a nonexistent set, and low-tech results necessitates the usage of shadow puppetry and artistic lighting tips.
The performances of all 4 actors are a bit broad and excessive, however that works to assist promote this as a parody and tongue-in-cheek tribute to one of many filmmaker’s most essential works. The entire manufacturing is a love letter to Hitchcock, with references to his most well-known movies peppered all through. The viewers is in on the joke because the actors identify drop among the grasp’s most beloved movies. North by Northwest even provides an essential plot level gimmick in Act One, and significantly intelligent viewers members might chuckle as one character leaves the stage whistling, “Funeral March of a Marionette,” higher generally known as the theme to the ‘50s TV present “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”
Shadowland’s new, intimate, hundred-seat-and-change black field theater is well-suited to a manufacturing of this scale, though the unorthodox, in-the-round staging—or on this case, “in-the-square” staging—is a danger. Relying closely on sight gags, the problem turns into making certain that the blocking works from all angles, and that the up-close-and-personal interplay with the viewers is successfully participating.
“The 39 Steps” rises to those challenges. The manufacturing strikes simply the precise word, balancing farcical, nearly slapstick, humor with strong performing. I tip my hat (if solely I had as many as he wears within the play) to Andy McCain, who’s the standout gem, leaning into each character portrayal with a gusto that usually has him glistening with the hassle. Doing quite a bit with a little bit, “The 39 Steps” at Shadowland Phases is price a glance.
“The 39 Steps” shall be carried out by way of July 9. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. Shadowland Phases is positioned at 14 Market Road, Ellenville. The present’s run time is 120 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.