Monday, January 24, 2011

"The Thirty Nine Steps": ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG BANG

If, like handsome, suave and debonair Richard Hannay, you long for something mindless, trivial and utterly pointless, but also a load of laughs and a ton of fun, we recommend the new Theaterworks production of "The Thirty Nine Steps" at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. An homage to Alfred Hitchcock films, the show is a collection of sight gags containing Hitchcockian bits, English drawing room humor and Monty Pythonesque slapstick. Above all we get brilliant performances from Mark Anderson Phillips as Hannay, and Dan Hiatt and Cassidy Brown who play all the other roles, and there are many, which are not being portrayed by the glorious Rebecca Dines.

Oh, there are train chases (a real one and a toy one), and a puppet or two, and a murder, sort of, and true love, in a way, and a bullet stopped by a hymnal (that's Sherlock Holmes, isn't it?). But it's not the journey we care about --it's how the production takes us there. Our favorite bits are where the small cast takes odds and ends (like chairs, hooks, a podium, hats) and turns them into a train compartment or a motorcar or a hotel room. The show is at least as much fun to watch as to hear.

Every star should get a supporting cast like Dines, Hiatt and Brown. Two scenes stand out among many -- the hat sequence on the train, where a simple turn to the rear and change of hat allows all the characters to switch roles in an instant, and then switch back in another instant; and the bedroom scene in the Scottish inn where the innkeepers flit in and out.

In fact, we loved everything where there are Scots. Why are Scots so funny? Perhaps because the shows about them are always written by Englishmen.

Special kudos to Costume Designer B. Modern for all those period costumes (there are over 60 costume changes between Mr. Hiatt and Brown alone), and to lighting designer Steven B. Mannshardt for his clever cues which help us keep our eyes on the important stuff and off where everyone is frantically changing clothes and hats.

Thirty Nine Steps has been in the Bay Area at least twice before and it keeps coming back because people love it. So will you.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Thirty Nine Steps" Three Stars with two, count'em, two BANGLES OF PRAISE. One star is for the cast, another for the production and a third for Robert Kelley's lighting fast direction. The first BANGLE is for the way Phillips extricates himself from under the dead Fraulein Schmidt. We could watch that scene over and over. The other BANGLE is for the hats. Oh, and the handcuffs!

"The Thirty Nine Steps"
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Through Feb. 13

Photo Credit: Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin

No comments: