Corners are never shaved and compromises are never made with the second production in the Pollard ‘Choices’ Season, “The 39 Steps” a Hitchcock favorite. James Ong directs an excellent cast on a superb set based on the design by James Wolk and Donald Jordan. Properties design by Emily Frei and Josh Cain are enhanced by Timothy Stewart. Lou Bird’s Original costume design is coordinated by Michael James. W. Jerome Stevenson (just closing his incredible “Othello” performance at Shakespeare in the Park) designs the lighting and the sound by Joshua Childress is handled exactly right.
“The 39 Steps” is a memorable Hitchcock movie from 1935 loosely taken from the novel by John Buchan. The adaptation by Patrick Barlow salutes Hitchcock’s comic bent. The story details the dissolute life of a young gentleman whose evening at the theatre is interrupted by a young lady attempting to avoid foreign spies. With her untimely death Richard Hannay must now elude the police who consider him the primary suspect in her murder, but he must also locate and dismantle the spy ring before they can escape with information that is a threat to National Security. Hannay, expertly portrayed by the incomparable Timothy Stewart, encounters many obstacles and dangers in his adventures as he meets a strange assortment of interesting characters in a mad dash across an unforgiving Scottish landscape to save England.
All the women he encounters are similarly beautiful and they are all portrayed by the superb comic actress, Gwendolyn Evans whose rapport with Stewart is perfect in every incarnation. All of the other characters (coming to about 100 or so) are played by Joshua McGowen and Jared Blount. Each of their characters is distinct and separate and played hilariously.
Ong takes the subtle humor inherent in Hitchcock’s work to heart, and there is an element of Monty Python that the audience can appreciate particularly with McGowen and Blount. “The 39 Steps” is really funny – in fact, outrageously hilarious and ‘titterating’ to quote an excited patron. The production certainly merits the opening night standing ovation. Comments overheard during intermission included ‘frantastic!” and in reference to Ong, ‘this director is like Mel Brooks, he didn’t miss a trick in exploiting each moment for humor’ as well as ‘really loved all the nods to Hitchcock movies’ and more. Additional comments centering on McGowen and Blount as Clown 1 and Clown 2 indicated the appreciation and amazement in seeing all those characters maintained with clarity and humor – ‘those two clown are hysterical’ and ‘how did they do that?’ as well as ‘amazing!’ and ‘I laughed so hard I snorted!’ just to name a few.
Stewart has great comic timing and conceptualization. Evans is a beautiful and talented ‘Hitchcock girl’ and McGowen and Blount are excellent comedic actors. Their charm makes “The 39 Steps” a hit that should not be missed.
“The 39 Steps” is showing through October 27th, 2012. Curtain is at 8:00pm and tickets are available online at www.thepollard.org or by calling the box office at 405-282-2800 Wednesday through Friday afternoons to reserve a space.