“The 39 Steps” is Clever Farce at Midtown
Reviewed by By Tom Jones
Four persons become a cast of nearly 100 characters in Midtown Arts Center’s farce, “The 39 Steps.” The show gained fame Off-Broadway in New York a few seasons ago when theatergoers found great joy in an amazingly-different version of a 1935 movie! “The 39 Steps” movie was directed in all seriousness by Alfred Hitchcock, based on a thriller written by John Buchan in 1915. The story and movie were a serious look at British intelligence during World War I. A few years ago an English actor, Patrick Barlow, came up with the idea of transferring the spy book and movie to the stage as a comedy.
The results are the zany spoof where four persons play a cast of many, with amazingly clever changes of costumes, dialects, and props! I first saw the show a few summers ago at the Creede Repertory Theatre in southern Colorado, and was knocked out by brilliance of the production.
Within the past year Kurt Terrio and his crew at Midtown Arts Center have provided terrific shows for local audiences – especially the wonderful versions of “Les Miserables” Monty Python’s Spamalot,” and “Miss Saigon!” Those productions were awesome with large casts, impressive sets, etc.
The “wow” of those successes, however, takes a back seat as a substantially smaller show now on the Midtown stage. The farce is fun, with many bits of clever staging, and with a hard-working cast of four who appear to be enjoying the challenge. Nate Huntley plays just one role in the show, the bored debonair Richard Hannay who wants nothing more than a quiet evening in his London flat. He is wrongfully accused of a murder and begins the caper of chasing (and being chased) on foot, by train, and by car to Northern Scotland to hopefully free himself from injustice. The remaining cast includes Nicki Casseri who plays roles of some of the women in the show. Andy McCain and Daniel Harkins play everyone else, including some crazy turns at cross-dressing. McCain is especially delightful as he seems to enjoy chewing up the scenery every time he appears – whether it be as a man, a woman, a farmer, a newspaper salesman, a police officer, and just about everybody imaginable.
Eric Mather directed the production. He has past experience with the show, having played the role of Nate Huntley last year at Littleton Town Hall. The direction includes several bits of lunacy where cast members try to crawl over a fence while being handcuffed, a stroll down several hallways with never-ending doors opening and closing, escaping from buildings by crawling through window frames, and chasing through (and on top of) a fast-moving train, and riding in cars of various types on bad roads, etc.. The bits are clever to a point, but became tiring after the repetitious fun goes on too long.
Knowledge of the 1935 Hitchcock movie is helpful, as there are references to later Hitchcock standards such as “Rear Window,” “North by Northwest,” and others. I rented the DVD prior to seeing the show the first time a few years ago. It is not mandatory to know the original story, but makes the show substantially more fun when realizing how the lunacy was inspired!
This “The 39 Steps” is not a glorious musical with great sets, etc. but is a well-acted non-stop farce spoofing serious espionage and spy movies in general!
“The 39 Steps”
Where: Midtown Arts Center, 3750 South Mason Street, Fort Collins
When:Through March 13, 2015
Information: Box Office at 970/225-2555, or online www.midtownartscenter.com