You might remember seeing the Hitchcock movie version of the hugely popular book, “The 39 Steps.”
Black and white, starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll, it’s the perfect moody film noir with snappy repartee and fabulously droll humor. An idle English gentleman, Richard Hannay, a bit board and as nervous as the rest of Europe in the years just before World War II, meets a beautiful foreign spy who invites herself back to his place…then gets summarily murdered in the night…awkward. Hannay, sensing how guilty he will look, goes on the run, following the woman’s last request of him, that he use the clues she gave him to save the country from impending doom. What a plot!
On the run, he is pursued not only by the police who plaster his picture on the front of every newspaper, but also by some mysterious men masquerading as police themselves. He follows the last clue he was given and takes the train to the wilds of Scotland where he meets another beauty, English this time, who turns him into the imposter police thinking him guilty. But that is only the beginning of their relationship. Tremendous!
Of course, there are Nazis, it's the perfect time for them after all, a scowling Scottish farmer and his young wife, ano many other characters like ticket inspectors, rural politicians, a professor and his psychotic wife to name but a few. All played by just two of the actors in the tradition of the film’s wonderful adaptation into a four person play by the brilliant John Buchan.
I was very fortunate to see the original production of this truly unique play in the West End at the gorgeous Criterion Theatre in London. We got last-minute, walk up tickets and sat way up in the gods, but it was one of the most spectacular productions I have ever seen….a little hard be to compared too.
However, Dean Productions really does a splendid job.
The play lends itself so well to an outside performance space, as the actors careen about the makeshift stage, almost Narnia-like with a hatstand and large flight cases doubling as every kind of set needed and all manipulated by the two “clowns” imagining and re-imagining the scenes and characters as the story unfolds. The atmosphere of the slowly darkening park with its shadowy trees and fussing, and roosting bird (I swear I heard an owl) create the most perfect setting for this wonderful and hilarious play.
As I munched on my sandwiches, parks always make me hungry, and sipped on my tea, a nod to the queen, I found myself inextricably drawn into the world of Hannay and his self-imposed quest, never knowing until the very last what “The 39 Steps” even mean. Driven by his total and complete belief that he was needed, that he had been chosen somehow to save us all…they don’t write them like this anymore!!!
Everyone did the accents of course to varying degrees of perfection. But even the most dodgy were pretty brilliant and there were many moments of channelling Monty Python, which is never, ever a bad thing. They certainly got the whole high drama of it, with liberal lashings of farce and feverish frivolity to boot.
In short, I absolutely loved it!
It’s such a huge undertaking, it’s all talk, talk, talk for one thing and everything hangs on the audience being able to follow the plot and the various characters switching about between the two actors who really must be wringing wet by the end of it. So bravo to everyone for even attempting it, and to succeed so thoroughly is quite astonishing…and in a park, at night!
“The 39 Steps” is only playing at Brand Park for a short time, so please do yourselves a very big favor and pack your picnic, a couple of cushions and a blanket and go and see it. It’s totally free too! Although they would appreciate a donation, they have a wonderful cause, they all work with children with cancer, creating plays with them, one of which they actually performed before the play. It was lovely! Also congratulations to the crew. I cannot imagine how difficult putting on this show must be in a theatre, let alone a park! A brave director indeed!!
I highly recommend The Dean Productions Theatre Company's, John Buchan’s "The 39 Steps.”
Brand Park, 1601 W. Mountain St, Glendale, CA 91201
April 20, 21, 22, 26, 17, 28 & 29 - 7.30pm
Richard Hannay - Sam Grey
Annabella/Pamela/Margret - Collette Rutherford
Clown 1 - Skip Pipo
Clown 2 - Joseph Anarumo
Director - Rebecca Lynne
Projection Design - Nicholas Acciani
Sound Designer - Megan Culley
Costume Designer - Tsebahat Fiseha
Stage Manager - Michael Carachure
Assistant Lighting Designer - Giselle Vega
Assistant Stage Manager - Wendy aguilla
House Manager - Madison Strasser
Publicist - Philip Sokoloff