knee-slapping-laugh-so-hard-your-belly-hurts-jolly-old-fun-old-bean stuff

Review of The 39 Steps at Seattle Repertory Theatre by Emma M.

When you think Alfred Hitchcock you probably think of his movies like “Rear Window” “Strangers on a Train” “Dial M for Murder” “Psycho” “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. Scary stuff. Nail biting stuff. Keep-looking-over-your-shoulder-for-the-murders stuff. Not comedy. Not slapstick. Not knee-slapping-laugh-so-hard-your-belly-hurts-jolly-old-fun-old-bean stuff. The 39 Steps is most definitely a comedy. A parody really.

But “What are the 39 steps?” asks Richard Hannay, the main character. Well the original Hitchcock film is a classic spy thriller full of murder and suspense:

Hannay meets a beautiful woman called Annabella. She tells him she’s a spy trying to prevent a secret from leaving the country. Later Annabella is murdered in his apartment, leaving Hannay alone and fearing for his life. He decides to try to figure out the mystery Annabella has left and becomes a fugitive on the run trying to find out whom or what are the 39 steps, and clear his name from the murder charge, of which he is completely innocent.

Ted Deasy, Scott Parkinson, Eric Hissom and Claire Brownell in The 39 Steps
photo by Craig Schwartz.

This version of The 39 Steps follows the same plot line, but it is as different from the Hitchcock film as night is from day. Full of amazing physical comedy, clever writing, and a perfect sense of timing, this play is hilarious. The characters are larger than life caricatures which the whole cast does a really excellent job of playing. So why is it advertized as Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps if they are so different? Because this play spoofs almost every Hitchcock film ever made. Actors climb out the “Rear Window”, do the aerial chase scene from “North by Northwest” (perfectly I might add), and they refer to one of the characters as “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. Constant Hitchcock puns aren’t the only thing that makes this play a total Hitchcock spoof. This play captures the physical style that is so very Hitchcock.

The actors in this play have an enormous task. There are four actors and dozens of characters. All of the actors are fantastic. Ted Deasy plays Richard Hannay, Claire Brownell plays Annabella/Pamela/Margret, Eric Hissom plays Man #1, and Scott Parkinson plays Man #2. Hissom and Parkinson play dozens of characters each and are simply brilliant! There is a marvelous scene where they change characters at lightning speed using hats as a guideline.

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it.” The 39 Steps, whether you have Teen Tix or not, is most definitely worth it.

- Emma M.
September 30th, 2009

The 39 Steps
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through October 24th
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