Friday, March 15, 2024

"The 39 Steps": ★★★ baub baub

 This is our third time around for "The 39 Steps," the previous two productions being in 2011 and 2019. We are happy to report San Francisco Playhouse's production has as much clowning and craziness as the others. Patrick Barlow's adaptation from the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film is brilliantly achieved, with four actors playing a multitude of parts, often within seconds of each other. The costume changes and character switches are the best part of the show, as the audience delights in figuring out who is what and why.

We must first mention Susi Damilano's direction, as a LOT is going on at once and the choreography must be perfect. And we loved both clowns: Greg Ayres and Renee Rogoff.

These two are what make a rather mundane spy story into a farcical romp. They might be phony detectives or a Scottish couple operating a hotel on the moors, but wherever they go we accompany them gratefully, laughing all the way.

The two leads, Phil Wong as Richard Hannay and Maggie Mason as Pamela plus any number of tempting molls, appear to be having a great time on stage. They share a glorious comic scene as she must unlatch her garter belt and remove her stockings while handcuffed to her proper Englishman who refuses to look.

Phil Wong's role calls for restraint and this is what we get. His character is kind of blank, though. We knew Henry Higgins was a self-centered, entitled snob. We know nothing about Richard Hannay. 

Maggie Mason can carry her slapstick humor further, and the further she goes the more we like it.The Scottish hotel scene is hard to beat. 

Ms. Mason takes a wonderful turn as Margaret, the randy Scottish lass peeking in the window.

RATINGS ★★★ baub baub

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants "The 39 Steps" THREE STARS with TWO BANGLES OF PRAISE. Bangle One is for Phil Wong's McCorquodale's political speech, which made us realize once again that this is an election year, and Bangle Two goes to Greg Ayres for his incomprehensible Scottish achhhh-cent,  

"The 39 Steps"

San Francisco Playhouse

450 Post Street

2d Floor of Kensington Hotel

Through April 20, 2024


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