Category Archive for: ‘Kedar K. Adour’

A laughable The 39 Steps at Hillbarn Theatre

The 39 Steps: Mystery/Comedy. From the novel by John Buchan. Adapted by Patrick Barlow. From an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon. Directed by Hunt Burdick. Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 E Hillsdale Blvd, Foster City, CA (650) 349-6411 or October 16-November 2, 2014

A laughable The 39 Steps at Hillbarn Theatre. Rating: ★★☆☆☆

John Buchan wrote the novel “The 39 Steps” almost 100 years ago and it spawned a number of plays using the basic plot before the 1935Alfred Hitchcock movie was made. Patrick Barlow adapted the present play The 39 Steps from the Alfred Hitchcock movie, It initially opened in the hinterlands of England in 1995 before reaching Broadway in 2008 where it won or was nominated for multiple Tony Awards. After its closure in 2010 there has been a professional road tour before being released for regional theatres. Locally, TheatreWorks (2011 ) and Center Rep (2013) mounted brilliant productions.

A cast of four actors portray 100 plus roles and the character of Richard Hannay (Brad Satterwhite) is the only actor not playing multiple double roles.  Richard Hannay is the protagonist with an ensemble of Elspeth Noble, Russell Ward, and Ross Neuenfeldt to play the other 99 or more roles. The cast is sporadically hilarious, adept with quick costume (Mae Heagerty-Matos) changes with a plethora of slapstick actions with props (Rosita Issel) doubling, quadrupling to fit the sets (Steve Nyberg) as needed to take Hannay on his journey from London to Scotland and back again.

Richard Hannay is a stiff upper lip bachelor Brit complete with tweeds and pipe. He picks up a shady-lady (Noble) with a secret and a German accent in a local theatre and brings her to his flat. Bad idea, since she is murdered with a knife (think the movie Psycho). He has to flee since he is accused of the murder. We hear the phrase “39 Steps” early in the first act and the remainder of the evening is devoted to finding out the meaning of the phrase. He picks up a love interest, sort of, along the way and Satterwhite  and Noble milk their “bed room” scene while handcuffed together for all its worth.

There are many scenes and music that are direct steals from Hitchcock movie including a plane crash scene behind a scrim that brings a modicum of laughter. You will recognize references from, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, North by Northwest and others.

Russell Ward, and Ross Neuenfeldt carry most of the action and are ably assisted by Noble. Director Burdick uses a relatively empty theatre set that allows the action to flow but he must share that credit with the production team. He does not have control of his cast especially Ward who shouts his lines with severe overacting that unbalances the ensemble effect.  The English and Scottish dialects are very variable to the point of being distracting or undecipherable.

Although there are many laughs throughout the play it becomes tedious before the end of act one and continues on until the final curtain.  Running time 2 hours and 20 minutes with an intermission.

CAST: Brad Satterwhite as Richard Hannay. Ensemble: Elspeth Noble, Russell Ward, and Ross Neuenfeldt.

CREATIVE TEAM: Director Hunt Burdick; Scenic designer Steve Nyberg; Costume designer Mae Heagerty-Matos; Sound designer Alan Chang; Hair and makeup designer Dee Morrissey; Properties designer Rosita Issel.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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