The 39 Steps is an outrageous, funny spoof at TheatreWorks.

(l to r): Mr. McGarrigle (Cassidy Brown) and Mrs. McGarrigle (Ron Campbell) offer Pamela (Annie Abrams) and Richard Hannay (Lance Gardner) a room at their hotel in “The 39 Steps,” presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley August 21 – September 15, 2019 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.
Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

THE 39 STEPS: Satirical Comedy. Based on the book by John Buchan. From the movie of Alfred Hitchcock.  Adapted by Patrick Barlow. Directed by Leslie Martinson.  TheatreWorks of Silicon Valley, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View, CA. (650) 463-960 or www.theatreworks.org.  

August 21 – September 15, 2019. Rating: ★★★★★

The 39 Steps is an outrageous, funny spoof at TheatreWorks.

For the second production of their 50th season TheatreWorks the 2019 winner of the Tony Award for Regional Theatre has brilliantly remounted their 2011 sell-out staging of The 39 Steps. For this staging they have enlisted the incomparable Leslie Martinson to direct and with the exception of lighting designer Steven B. Mannshardt an entirely new creative team. It was a brilliant move to bring back actor Cassidy Brown to play the role that he made famous at TheatreWorks and Center Rep. He shares the accolades with Annie Abrams, Ron Campbell and Lance Gardner.

It has been almost 100 years since “The Thirty-Nine Steps” novel was written by John Buchan. In the interim there have been a series of incarnations of the basic plot used for movies and TV. This adaptation by Patrick Barlow uses the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock movie as its starting point and director Leslie Martinson deftly throws in more than a modicum of references to Hitchcock’s work that extract laughs throughout the evening.

Abrams, Brown and Campbell play 100 or more roles (if you can keep count) and Gardner only plays the lead Richard Hannay. The fun begins when the four characters parade across the stage finding the remainder of the cast is not at hand and they must play all the roles to a full house audience. They are fantastic, hilarious and adept with quick costume changes and a marvel at slapstick actions.

Richard Hannay is a stiff upper lip Brit bachelor complete with tweeds and pipe. A quick pick-up in a local theater of a shady-lady with a secret and a German accent leads to her murder with a knife (think the movie Psycho) and Hannay 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 Abrams and Gardner in their “bed room” scene while handcuffed together is milked for all its worth. That scene hilariously starts when a “props” box folds out into a Murphy bed.

The show is not only a visually feast with multiple costume changes and unbelievable props but also with auditory effects including  English accents, unintelligible Scottish brogues, mechanical noises, airplane chase, motorcar crash and on and on.  A ladder that is used as a means of escape becomes a railroad trestle with Hannay dangled underneath as a train approaches with expert sound and lighting simulating a fall into the abyss.

Before that happens in the second act the chase scenes are a hoot and a holler with an intricate hilarious train scene with coats being exchanged while never being fully removed from their bodies.

There is even a plane crash scene that brought a gale of laughter as did a silhouette of the portly ‘master’ Hitchcock parading behind the scrim. The music has been usurped from the ‘master’s’ movies and you will recognize, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, North by Northwest and others.

Cassidy Brown and Ron Campbell carry most of the action but are ably assisted by Lance Gardner and Annie Abrams as the scene shifts from a music hall to Scotland and back with a plethora of characters too numerous to recall. The creative team is at their best as they start from Hannay’s apartment to the fatal music hall and on and on. Cudos to scenic designer by David Lee Cuthbert, sound designer Cliff Caruthers, lighting designer Steven Mannshardt, stage manager Randall K. Lum, Costume designer Cathleen Edwards and director Leslie Martinson who keeps the action non-stop with emphasis for specific scenes.  Running time is 2 hours with an intermission. Highly recommended.

CAST: Annie Abrams as Annabella Schmidt/Pamela/Margaret; Cassidy Brown as Mr. Memory/The Crofter/ many others; Ron Campbell as The Compere/Professor Jordan/and many others; Lance Gardner as Richard Hannay.

CREATIVE TEAM: Directed by Leslie Martinson; Scenic Designer David Lee Cuthbert; Costume Designer Cathleen Edwards; Lighting Designer Steven B. Mannshardt; Sound Designer Cliff Caruthers; Dialect Coach Janel Miley; Casting Director Jeffrey Lo; Stage Manager Randall K. Lum; Assistant Stage Manager Aaron A. Watson.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

(l to r): Mr. McGarrigle (Cassidy Brown) and Mrs. McGarrigle (Ron Campbell) offer Pamela (Annie Abrams) and Richard Hannay (Lance Gardner) a room at their hotel in “The 39 Steps,” presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley August 21 – September 15, 2019 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

Photo Credit: Kevin Berne