Friday, May 02, 2008

Hitchcock Homage

"Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps" at the Cort Theatre, May 2, 2008

Transferring from its limited run at the Roundabout Theatre Company earlier this spring, "39 Steps" has transferred to an open-ended commercial run.

The movie has been remade several times, including by Hitchcock himself in 1959's "North by Northwest." This adaptation by Patrick Barlow takes on the 1935 classic film with a cast of four, three men and one woman playing every role in the story.

It's definitely a physical actor's dream gig - slapstick, quick changes, minimal sets and props to create everything from a London flat, to a train (both interior and exterior) to a police station to a rural inn, all using trunks, chairs and a table.

Charles Edwards plays Richard Hannay, the protagonist (antagonized?) hero of the story about a man dragged into the tale of intrigue. Jennifer Ferrin plays three of the female roles, spending most of her time as Margaret, one of the original Hitchcock blonds. Cliff Saunders and Arnie Burton play the rest of the characters, both male and female.

I was truly intrigued when I first heard this production was coming to NYC after an Olivier-winning run in London's West End. I was anxious to see it, now that it had transferred to a commercial run.

Now that I've seen it, though I really admired the clever and resourceful direction and production, I can't help but wonder if something like this wouldn't be better served in a venue like New World Stages. The combination of slapstick and farce produced on such a low-tech approach seems to have off-Broadway written all over it. I can almost see it taking a reputation as the kind of show, like "Blue Man Group" or "Stomp" that is a perennial favorite among visitors to NYC.

The four actors gave a nice effort tonight, but I couldn't help but feel that some of the novelty is starting to wear off. I was glad to see director Maria Aitken was in the back row of the mezzanine taking notes. Hopefully she can re-inject some of the energy back into this production.

1 comment:

Esther said...

I saw this in Boston and loved it. I was just amazed at how much you can do with four actors and a few props. Coincidentally, I saw Blue Man Group in Boston a few years ago, and I enjoyed The 39 Steps much, much more! I do think the 2nd act drags a bit, and I think you almost need to have seen the movie to fully appreciate it. But I just thought it was so funny and so inventive. Still, I understand your point about it being so low-tech that it could run off-Broadway forever. But I certainly enjoyed it more than some shows I've seen on Broadway!