Thursday, October 01, 2009

The 39 Steps--Seattle Rep

The 39 Steps
Seattle Repertory Theatre
September 25-October 24, 2009
Tickets and Information

The first impression is everything. As far as theatre goes, the first production in a season sets the tone for the rest of the year. This considered, Seattle audiences are in good hands this year at the Seattle Rep who began their season tonight with The 39 Steps.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Brought to the stage in conjunction with the La Jolla Playhouse, The 39 Steps is a fast-paced comedy based on Alfred Hitchcock’s film and the book, both of the same name. Richard Hannay (Ted Deasy) is a lonely yet charmingly handsome type who suddenly finds himself accused of a murder, on the run from police and in pursuit of unknown foreign spies who have “the answers”. Along the way he meets Irish farmers, possible love interests, and curious men standing under lampposts in trench coats, all played hilariously by Claire Brownell, Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson. As if that weren’t recipe enough for mayhem, the play embraces every single characteristic of Hitchcock’s filmmaking in a refreshingly self-deprecating and yet reverent way.

The stellar cast of four (with a special cameo by a ninth hand in the final scene) has obvious fun blasting through this whirlwind of a play. With so much going on non-stop, it takes a lot of chemistry and trust to pull it off. Deasy is schmoozy, charismatic and daring in all the right ways as Richard Hannay. Brownell is captivating as Hanney’s various love crossings. Working in tandem, Hissom and Parkinson steal every scene with lightning-fast quick changes (some you see, some you don’t) and endless bursts of energy.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

For all of the accents and grand gestures, the ensemble would be nothing without the support of a spot-on technical team. Peter McKintosh’s sets and costumes stand up to the beating they take through the course of the production in a stylish, 1930s fashion. The lighting, done by Kevin Adams, is a creative homage to classic noir cinema. Mic Pool’s sound design uses only period and Hitchcock film music in a soundtrack that quickly takes the audience back to another time. In the center of the controlled chaos is director Maria Aitken. Every moment is choreographed and shaped perfectly to garner maximum laughs.

The 39 Steps is a golly good choice for an evening out on the town, especially during this time where laughs are much needed. It will entertain and thrill even those who live under a rock and have never enjoyed a classic suspense thriller. Hitchcock would be pleased.

Review by Kacey Shiflet.

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