The 39 Steps

by Michael Martin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday February 16, 2010

The cast of the national tour of The 39 Steps.
The cast of the national tour of The 39 Steps.  

One of the silliest and most fun nights in the theater can be enjoyed at the Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale with the engaging national touring production of The 39 Steps.

Based on a 1915 novel by John Buchan and adapted by Patrick Barlow, the resourceful stage play embarks on a tongue-in-cheek version of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.

Barlow, in fact, adapted the book from an original two-man version of the show once conceived by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon.

As the story begins, Richard Hannay (Ted Deasy) recounts some of his harrowing adventures that unwittingly involve him in some espionage exploits.

Richard's tales obviously involve a number of other characters, from femme fatale to dodgy trench coat laden strangers hidden outside his flat who hide their appearance under low drawn fedoras.

Claire Brownell tackles most of the female roles, though character men Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson are want to don a few ladies dresses themselves when the need arises.

The story continues with every nuance expected of a Hitchcock tale, albeit with a new and clever twist that imparts the daunting task of story telling to a simple cast of just four actors.

This is where the brilliance of the evening comes to light.

Under the shrewd direction of Maria Aitken, and with the Tony Award winning lighting and sound design by Kevin Adams and Mic Pool respectively, four exceptional thespians ply their crafts in an almost Forbidden Broadway-esque atmosphere.

With the exception of Deasy, whose through-line delivery requires his character to remain constant, the other three actors routinely change wigs, hats, and costumes to adopt any number of personalities mentioned in Richard Hannay's episodic journey.

Additionally, mimed sequences that evoke the essence of wind blustering through an open door, or a chase atop a moving train serve to embellish the talented inventiveness of the adaptation.

The choreography of the quick scene, costume, and character changes parallels many a dynamic ballet, and truly inspires awe.

Acknowledging a knowingly silly air, winks and asides become the norm. Clever references to other Hitchcock films like North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Rear Window also make their way into the witty dialogue.

The clichť ridden story thus becomes secondary. The central focus and deserved spotlight belongs to the adroit direction by Aitken and four very adept actors who shine brilliantly upon the stage.

The 39 Steps continues through February 28th at the Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8th Street in Ft. Lauderdale. For more information, visit the website.

Michael Martin has been an active member of Actors' Equity for over 20 years. As a professional actor, he has toured many parts of the US and the world. Originally from St. Louis, he now resides in Miami.