Calling all Hitchcock fans – the comedic stage adaptation of The 39 Steps is the current production at the Raleigh Little Theatre. For everyone from those who know every Hitchcock movie inside and out to casual fans, there's something to enjoy.
The 39 Steps is an inventive take on the original. Based on the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock (which was itself adapted from a 1915 novel), the play tells the same story but with only four characters. This shift changes the tone of the piece from suspense to parody. Jesse Gephart, as the only actor who played only one role, anchored the cast and helped convey the storyline throughout all the character-switches among the rest of the cast. Gephart's solid English accent was charming, as was he. The Two Men, Tony Hefner and Del Flack, were good, although it was sometimes confusing as to who was playing which character when.
The story follows Richard Hannay from London to Scotland and back as he tries to flee a spy organization called the 39 Steps and discover their secrets. The theme of deception plays into the show's concept of a few actors playing many characters – the same men who play the police also play spies who happen to be attempt to pass as police officers. Hannay's adventures include love encounters, near-death experiences and an array of mysterious people.
Fans of Hitchcock will absolutely enjoy the show – I was surrounded by audience members who were simply doubled over from laughter. However, for folks like myself who are woefully unversed in the ways of Hitchcock, it may feel like there's a puzzle piece missing. While the show is still enjoyable and worthwhile, there are moments which are beyond the experience of those of us who have not seen the Hitchcock film canon. There are however, some timeless Hitchcock references (to such works as Rear Window and Psycho), which all will enjoy.
The set for the show, while appearing insufficient, is actually a device built into the storytelling. Different set pieces serve different functions, and some artistic liberties are taken with the set. For example, one character is holding up a window frame as they try to figure out how to go out the window. Upon realizing that the set piece is not a real window, they lower and step through the window frame as if one could do that with a real window. It's a comedic homage to the theater and to the magical world therein.
The 39 Steps runs through October 28. For tickets and more information, visit www.raleighlittletheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Curtis Brown