Hitchcock. On speed. With laughs. That’s what you get with this seriously funny Off-Broadway hit, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. It’s a Hitchcock like you’ve never seen before: A fast-paced romp of comic-mystery with flawless direction and smart performances, oozing with style and nuance.
Based on the 1935 movie thriller, on stage the thrills and surprises are played for laughs. It’s all a non-stop pleasure with only 4 actors playing all the roles. From clever sets to mood lighting to playful shadow characters, the fun and surprises never stop. Veiled references to Hitchcock’s other movies bring howls for irony.
The lead, John Behlmann, is a noteworthy talent. A lift of his eyebrow or the jut of his jaw conveys just the right emotion for every moment. His character, Richard Hannay, goes to the theater, hears a shot and ends up with a shapely blonde coming home with him. He’s skeptical when she tells him she’s a spy and foreign agents are trying to kill her. But later, she stumbles out of the bedroom with a knife in her back. She dies clutching a map of Scotland, with a town circled.
Trying to save Britain, Hannay heads off to tell the police and stop the agents. Alas, he soon finds himself on the lam as the murder suspect, and has to follow the dead gal’s clue in order to find the real killer and clear his name. We follow Hannay and crew through sheer madness, while the story line remains loyal to the original Hitchcock film. In one particularly funny scene, Hannay is shot in the chest, but a bible in the pocket of a coat he stole while running from a jealous husband, miraculously saves his life.
The leading lady, Kate MacCluggage plays three different roles and thoroughly entertains in all of them. She’s a German spy; a farmer’s wife; and a sweet young thing Hannay meets on the train and later ends up sleeping with, completely dressed and handcuffed!
The two other actors in the ensemble play so many characters it's hard to keep track, but all are hysterical. Jamie Jackson has a rubber face whose expressions burst from it in a myriad of roles that continually elicit guffaws from the audience. He and Cameron Folmar create almost 150 different roles as the show frenetically zips along. Watching their multiple costume and hat changes is a riot.
As the plot moved forward, we found ourselves remembering bits and pieces of Hitchcock’s movie that we had seen many years before. But whether you’ve seen the original version or not – don’t miss THIS one. With its superb acting, sharp direction and campy style, The 39 Steps is an evening of pure enjoyment.
The play was adapted by Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon. Their concept was based on the 1915 book by John Buchan and the 1935 Hitchcock movie.
The 39 Steps is playing at the New World Stages, the renowned performing arts complex in the heart of the theatre district. Constructed on the site of the lively Worldwide Plaza, the complex has five theatres ranging in size from 199 to 499 seats. Theatergoers have a choice of shows, which currently include Avenue Q the Musical, Naked Boys Singing, Gazillion Bubble Show, Freckleface Strawberry and ImagineOcean.
Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street
New York, New York