Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

The 39 Steps
Ivoryton Playhouse
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule


(front seat) David Edwards and Jonathan Brody; with Larissa Klinger and Dan Fenaughty
Photo by Roger Williams
If you're looking for a zany, madcap evening of theatre, I doubt that you could do better right now than Ivoryton Playhouse's production of The 39 Steps. As cleverly directed by Erik Bloomquist, this delightful show takes Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film The 39 Steps and turns it on its head. Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon originally came up with the concept for this show and Patrick Barlow is responsible for the stage adaptation. All the characters are played by just four actors, so there are some moments when a performer portrays two or more characters at the same time.

Adding to the fun are the many references to Hitchcock's films (notably Psycho, with Bernard Herrmann's score frequently being played) and there are some truly hilarious sight gags. The four actors in this production seem to be having a whale of a time onstage and I think that you will have a great time as well.

It's been decades since I saw the 1935 film, but a familiarity with it is not really necessary to be able to fully appreciate and enjoy the stage adaptation. On a rather simple set (nicely designed Daniel Nischan), director Erik Bloomquist has sent his company of four performers onstage as if he were letting them loose onto a jungle gym. One actor, the excellent Dan Fenaughty, plays just one role, lead character Richard Hannay. Fenaughty gets more than his share of laughs, but he does often have to act as "straight man," so to speak, for the antics of his three fellow actors.

Since The 39 Steps is such a showcase for the four performers. As mentioned, Dan Fenaughty proves to be the ideal leading man, to which his costars merrily perform with throughout the show. There is just one actress onstage, the lovely and extremely funny Larissa Klinger, who essays three female roles to wonderful effect. Brilliant costume designer Cully Long and wig designer Elizabeth Cipollina are responsible for the many costume and wig changes that are made throughout the show, as the actors change characters, sometimes at a moment's notice.

Which brings us to, perhaps, the real stars of this show, David Edwards and Jonathan Brody, who are listed as Clown #1 and Clown #2. These two actors must take on about a hundred different roles between them. I have seen David Edwards do exceptional work at Ivoryton Playhouse before, both onstage (in La Cage aux Folles) and as a director (last season's splendid production of South Pacific), but nothing could really prepare me for what he accomplishes in this show, as he switches characters at a dizzying speed and is often so hysterical it's hard to stop laughing. The same goes equally for Jonathan Brody, who matches Edwards in laugh-out-loud hilarity throughout in the wide range of roles he takes on (and both actors also play some female characters). I would be loath to spoil any of their deliriously funny moments, but their train sequence in the first act is a priceless comic gem.

The 39 Steps is a tour de force opportunity for actors, and director Erik Bloomquist knows just how to keep the breathless pace of the show going for maximum effect. The plot truly takes a backseat to what is accomplished by the four performers onstage.

Ivoryton Playhouse's production of The 39 Steps is a real joy and it is easy to see why it has been such a success in numerous productions. If you have a fondness for slapstick humor rendered at a dizzying pace, and any sort of appreciation for Alfred Hitchcock films, The 39 Steps is truly the show for you.

The 39 Steps continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, CT through June 19, 2016. For tickets, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call the box office at 860-767-7318.


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