Jewel Box Theatre’s production of ‘The 39 Steps” is a charming and entertaining event, well worth an evening of your time.
The script, a light and witty satire of classic Alfred Hitchcock film scenarios, needs sharp timing, precise and clear diction, and lots of stage and theatre ‘magic’—the kind that usually requires a proscenium stage, with wings, flies and special lighting. Jewel Box, with its open, “in the round” construction, would not be considered an ideal setting for this show; however, director Jennifer Teel renders The 39 Steps beautifully. Her cast, most of whom are faced with the need to be many, many people, have adapted to the needs of the piece and deliver solid and engaging performances.
Kevin Logan as Richard Hannay is the only actor who has the luxury of not changing identities, and in return he has to carry the piece. Logan does this ably, bringing the audience along for an exciting ride through various scenes parodied from classic Hitchcock films. Logan is well partnered by Crystal Ecker, who plays her several roles—femme fatale, trapped woman, and ingénue—with equal deftness and grace.
Richie Rayfield and Matt Barger handled the roles of the two Clowns very well. The ‘hat’ scene demonstrates the cleverness with which these two actors switch among several character parts with only a change of headgear and vocal styling.
To address the needs of an “in the round” production, director Teel has introduced the character of the “Foley Operator,” which is theatre jargon for “the sound effects person.” In this role, dressed as an orchestra conductor and occupying a ridiculously tiny “orchestra pit,” Chris Rodgers very nearly steals the show. Teel, using Rodgers’ talented and elastic face perfectly, weaves him into the show seamlessly—although the character does not exist in the script!
Rodgers and Ecker both demonstrate a sharpness of timing that heightens the dramatic silliness of the show. Logan, called upon to think on his feet constantly, managed perfectly when a prop malfunctioned, and he covered the situation with aplomb. Barger and Rayfield bounce from character part to character part with alacrity and skill.
“The 39 Steps” playing at The Jewel Box Theatre at 3700 N. Walker is a light and thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre. The show runs through February 10, 2013 and tickets are available at the box office. The box office phone is manned Wednesday through Friday afternoons for reservations by calling 405-521-1786 at those times. Curtain is at 8pm Thursday through Saturday with Sunday matinees. Step up to the adventure and catch “The 39 Steps” at the Jewel Box Theatre.
“The Good Counselor” opens Friday, January 10th 2013 at Carpenter Square Theatre at 800 W. Main in Oklahoma City. Written by Kathryn Grant, the story takes on the question of nature versus nurture, and how the realities of racism and classism can twist situations that may at first seem straightforward. The play is directed by Rhonda Clark, with Rehearsal Stage Manager Jaefinn Carr and Production Stage Manager A’mari Jo Rocheleauthe and Light/Set Designer James Polk Wilson. The show runs through February 2nd. Specific show times, tickets and directions are available at www.carpentersquare.com.
The play opens with Rita (Bernadette Puckett) getting ready for church. One of the things that is really interesting about this production is that her character has relatively few speaking lines—you get the gist of who she is mainly through body language and exposition from the other actors. We spend the majority of our time with Rita’s two sons, Vincent and Ray. Vincent (played by Stephen Dillard-Carroll) seems the prodigal son returned—a successful attorney, well-liked by the community and with plenty of money to slide over to his family despite his job as a public defender. Brian C. Scott is fantastic as Ray, who flails at the other end of the spectrum without steady employment, trying to overcome a longstanding drug problem.
The status quo is upset when Vincent is asked to defend Evelyn (Radonna Carter), on trial for the death of her newborn son. Evelyn and Vincent take their time getting over their preconceived notions of each other. Evelyn is the epitome of ‘white trash’—uneducated, rude, and offended by the idea that she must be defended by a homosexual black man who could not possibly know anything about her life. Ray has little sympathy for a woman who failed so spectacularly at parenting when his own mother survived similar circumstances. A little guidance from his boss, Maia (Lana Henson), helps soften Vincent’s opinions about Evelyn and, consequently, reexamine those about his own mother. Some of the suspicions Vincent harbors about Evelyn are perhaps projected from his own childhood as he is unable to face those realities himself.
While not all elements of the production flow seamlessly, the play is well produced. Clark’s use of popular music between scenes is an effective segue from one setting (or era) to another. Wilson’s train trestle, always in the background, serves as a constant reminder of both where the characters are and where they come from. Dillard-Carroll’s Vincent makes it clear that he suffers from survivor’s guilt, and Scott’s Ray is clearly someone who was never allowed to get over his childhood foibles and neglect. Carter’s shrill Evelyn is a trapped, frantic young woman who most of society wants to forget. Henson is the production’s quiet conscience, reminding us that just because empathy is not automatic doesn’t mean it can’t be achieved. Puckett’s Rita is stoic and defensive, having done the best that she could.
It is wonderful and lovely that we’re getting shows like this in Oklahoma. CST consistently produces shows outside the usual fare offered, and we’re lucky to have the opportunity to see them without having to travel too far. Go see “The Good Counselor”!
Every now and then a role comes along that is so dynamite it can’t be overlooked. Award winning author Joe DiPietro is known as a great playwright—I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Over the River and Through the Woods are examples of his work. Along comes The Last Romance with two roles that would have my name right up in lights! The names filling those roles in this production are Jane Hall and Kitty Fisher for the role of Carol Reynolds and Laurel Van Horn Jaworsky and Vicki Wilcox for the role of Rose Tagliatelle.
Director Doobie Potter then cast the role of Ralph Bellini with Paul Smith. Yes, his name was on that role as well. As a matter of fact this may be absolutely his best performance in any show he has ever done because it suits his speech patterns, and he displays an intricate knowledge of the character that makes him shine. Potter perfectly cast Coco Chanel Carr as the little dog. She designed an open set that works wonderfully for all the locations. But ultimately Potter had to make the hard decision: Hall or Fisher and Jaworsky or Wilcox. She made the best decision imaginable. The result of her decision is romantic and hysterically funny.
The leading ladies are double cast and perform alternately. The performance this article refers to has Hall as Carol and Wilcox as Rose in the roles. (Look out for an update in a few days; next Saturday night, this reviewer will see the alternate cast in performance.)
Smith is inspired as the Italian sweetie-heart who hasn’t lost his appeal as a student of humanity–or his sex appeal. Hall as Carol is a gorgeous older woman who believes she is past any thoughts of romance. Smith’s character Ralph can see beyond her shell to the beauty lurking behind a rare smile. Rose, Ralph’s sister and ‘keeper’ has also lost touch with humanity in general, but if she watches her brother, she may find it again. Wilcox beautifully shows the audience that transformation.
Under Potter’s expertise these three actors create a show that is well worth seeing for the older set. It is also very much a family show. Younger people can relate to The Last Romance much as they relate to their first romance or fantasize about the romance yet to come.
We are never too old to love–never to old to bind our passion–and never too old to step out to Carpenter Square Theatre where The Last Romance plays through December 23, 2012. What great gift a couple of tickets would be for parents or grandparents who only like to pretend to you they are over the hill. They are not!
The excellent cast and crew–as well as Jon and Jaefinn (proud poppas of Coco Chanel Carr, aka Peaches)–welcome patrons to Carpenter Square Theatre. Located at 800 West Main in downtown Oklahoma City, Carpenter Square is easily accessible from the Interstate or from Classen Boulevard. Parking is available nearby; the theatre stocks a nice bar and encourages patrons to come a little early for the art show. Mort Hamilton is the artist for The Last Romance, and her exhibit is entitled “The Sound of Water.” Interested patrons should look closely at some of these paintings because they are not only lovely, they are mysterious. Remember “The Iceman Cometh” and enjoy Hamilton’s work.
Reservations can be made at 405-232-6500. Enjoy a great script choice from Artistic Director Rhonda Clark, and a great show from Director Doobie Potter!
Look for an update with the alternate cast next week here at Oklahoma Arts: Scene & Hurd.
The Jewel Box Theatre continues the excellent tradition of introducing new playwrights to the scene with premiere performances. This year’s choice is “Excavation” by Rob Barron. Barron is an assistant professor of theatre at City College in New York where he teaches acting, directing and playwriting. He has written and directed several plays and “Excavation” is the first of his plays directed by another. Linda McDonald directs this world premiere in Oklahoma for the Jewel Box Theatre.
“Excavation” tells two stories of dinosaur lovers separated by two centuries and an ocean. Josh Peterson is a recent widower working in security at the Natural History Museum in New York City. His young son, Kenny is still grieving over the loss of his mother and immerses himself in the book about the fossil hunter, Mary Anning. The modern setting is fictional, but Mary Anning is a historical figure.
Mary Anning was born in 1799 and was known as a fossil collector, dealer and paleontologist due to the important finds she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis in Dorset where she lived. She has been largely overlooked in the scientific community due to her lack of formal education, and also because women were not recognized in the scientific community in the early 19th century. Mary was finally recognized for her contributions by the Royal Society in 2010 as one of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science. Mary Anning was also noted in her community for the unusual circumstances surrounding a sudden lighting storm during an equestrian show. A neighbor, Elizabeth Haskings, was holding the child Mary when lightning struck killing three women including Haskings. Mary’s survival was miraculous, and interestingly, she blossomed from a sickly toddler to a lively, curious and intelligent girl. She was often referred to as ‘lightning girl’ by those in the community where she searched for fossils to sell as a way of supporting her family.
“Excavation” intertwines her history with the fictional story of Josh and Kenny Peterson as they struggle to survive in a modern world with little support for a suddenly grieving father and son. Barron weaves the two stories together as the characters appear simultaneously and seem to interact on a mental level. It is the dedication of Mary Anning that gives the young boy hope.
Director McDonald uses a simple set that suggests that classical structure of a museum as well as the cliffs and pits of Dorset. The characters are well established with very good performances among the principles as well as versatile multiple cameo parts in the cast.
Mary Anning is played by A’Mari Rocheleau and her performance is excellent. Rocheleau establishes the slight abrasiveness that intelligent women often had to develop during this period yet she tempers Mary Anning’s personality with sensitivity and joy in her work. The role of Josh Peterson is wonderfully done by Chris Briscoe, harried, hapless and hopelessly confused about what needs to be done for his son, Kenny. Kenny is played by Nathan Ferguson and he does an exceptional job of portraying autism which can be devastating even in a mild form. David Burkhart, John Q. Wilson, Todd Murray, Curt Rose and CheyAnne Stickler round out this very competent cast with distinctive characterizations.
“Excavation” shows at the Jewel Box Theatre through December 9, 2012. Tickets are available at the box office by phone Tuesday through Friday afternoons at 405-521-1786. Also, tickets may be purchased on line at www.jewelboxtheatre.org. The Jewel Box Theatre is located at the First Christian Church at 3700 N. Walker in Oklahoma City. “Excavation” is a wonderful choice for families, especially those with exceptional children, and what child is not, after all, exceptional?
The Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre is presenting “The Normal Heart” by Larry Kramer. This show is an autobiographical tragedy. The names have been changed to avoid the complicated nightmare dealing with estate resolution in the case of the deceased and also to be more sensitive to family members. But the story is true and many of us remember first hearing about the ‘gay plague’ that was vaguely covered beginning in 1981. It took years, but we soon learned about AIDS.
The subject matter is sensitive to many because the disease is transmitted in many cases by a promiscuous life style in the homosexual community. Initially, not knowing that the transmission occurred in other ways as well, the disease was called GRID (gay related immune deficiency) and as more information became available, AIDS.
The specific interest in the production is narrow—the gay and lesbian community who are most affected and initially the only segment of the population known to be affected. Some are offended by the subject matter yet everyone is in danger. Taking place from July 1981 to May 1984 in New York City, this is the story of those at ‘ground zero’ from the first cases diagnosed.
What is universal to all, regardless of their feelings about the disease or homosexual activity is the frustration these men and women faced as they attempted to get answers and develop information for those infected with the virus and those in danger. They ran up against a brick wall of uncaring, unhearing, uninformed bureaucracy. This is familiar to everyone to a greater or lesser extent, and is probably the biggest threat to freedom faced in the 21st century.
Dr. Emma Brookner is the doctor in New York City who studied, treated and fought for answers and treatment from the earliest days. She steadfastly stood by her patients, a constantly growing number of individuals, but with changing faces as so many of them died. A victim of polio, she sets aside her own pain to help these poor young men coming to her with hope, and held their hands when hope began to die. The role of Dr. Brookner is beautifully played by Stacey Logan who captures her rough and tough exterior tempered by a heart filled with love.
Ned Weeks is the writer who struggles in the way that all writers do. His only love in life is that shared with his straight brother Ben, who accepts him. Unfortunately Weeks cannot commit himself to any relationship requiring him to give of himself that love which is romantic. When he finally finds that one person he can share his life with he loves unconditionally and completely. As he first discovers that many of his friends are afflicted he naturally begins to fight for information and help. As he becomes personally affected, facing the loss of someone he loves, his fight becomes desperate. Jonathan Beck Reed captures Ned Weeks perfectly revealing a man who is courageous, outspoken and above all highly principled. Michael Jones is an excellent Ben Weeks, a man who can love and accept a younger brother who has crossed a line that many of the era could not cross. This takes place only 30 years ago and there are still many people who refuse to accept such an alien life style, yet Ben Weeks, does so wholeheartedly and loves his brother unabashedly. The performance of Jones reveals this, and yet we see the natural reservations he hides from his beloved brother until they become temporarily estranged.
Weeks forms one of the first organization to combat AIDS in New York City. His colleague is Bruce Niles a handsome man firmly in the closet. Niles is elected President and his cautious approach is sensible but seems to reflect his need to remain hidden from public view to protect his position. Weeks and Niles butt heads continually. Drew Pollack shows the audience the horrible conflict he faces daily as he struggles with the bureaucracy and the loss of lovers. Tommy Boatwright is the flamboyant member of the organization. He likes to shock and swish just a little and could never stay in any closet. And he is the wisest member of the group in understanding the human condition. Brian Hamilton adds just the right amount of poignancy to the role, and a nice touch of humor.
Matthew Alvin Brown is Felix Turner, the young lover of Ned Weeks. The profoundly deep feelings that develop between the two of them as they meet and fall in love during this battle is stirring. Brown and Beck beautifully portray a loving couple facing tragedy with grace and strength.
Michael Corolla plays Mickey Marcus, the quiet, unassuming and very effective member of the organization. He takes care of the details with determination and dedication. When the depths of his passion and anger is revealed it is both shocking and natural, and Corolla’s characterization is superb.
Terry Veal is an officious bureaucrat in the Mayor’s office. He must balance his naturally bureaucratic attitude with his genuine concern as a gay man in a public setting. The character Veal develops of Hiram Keebler is one of the best performances Veal has ever given. Wil Rogers as Craig Donner and an orderly, Scott C. Hynes as David and an orderly, Scotty Taylor as Grady, Daniel Leeman Smith as an orderly and Larry Sharp as the Examining Doctor all perform excellently amidst this great cast.
Ben Hall, Assistant to the Director is invaluable, but the credit of this excellent production must go to Rene Moreno. Moreno takes a great cast and allows them full range in an extremely tragic story yet orchestrates this production with a light but firm touch. The piece is thought provoking and tears stream from the eyes of the audience as they leave the theatre, but they are also hopeful and ready to fight, whether the issue is the same as just seen or another, they understand and are ready for any fights they must face. Further, Moreno’s direction allows the audience to be entertained. It is hard to make such a tragedy as this entertaining to a general audience, yet in “The Normal Heart” this is accomplished.
The crew, the understudies, the CityRep management the actors and most of all Director Moreno should be congratulated heartily for this production – a production Larry Kramer could see himself in as if gazing in a mirror. There is a wall of petty indifference that Weeks came up against and could not dent, not because he is gay, but because the wall doesn’t care. While “The Normal Heart” is of specific interest to the gay and lesbian community, it is universal because sooner or later we will all bang our heads with futility and desperation against such a wall.
“The Normal Heart” plays through November 18, 2012 in the Freede Theatre at the Civic Center Music Hall. Curtain is at 7:30 pm for the convenience of the parking public and 1:30 for matinees. For tickets call CityRep at 405-848-3761 or visit www.cityrep.com. Go – not because you’re gay if you are, but because you are human as we all are.
Oklahoma City Theatre Company presents the classic “Frankenstein” in a nod to Halloween and lovers of the classic horror story. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of the novel first published in 1818, appears as a character in the adaptation by Dorothy Louise. Louise is a modern dramatist and, in the current modern vein, writes somewhat impressionistically. “Frankenstein” is a period piece from the early 19th century and is a Gothic Romance. Director Fabrice Conte attempts to represent the mixed styles in this production and his cast certainly fulfills their obligations, but the play comes across as confusing to the audience. The action is not hard to follow as Louise parallels the action of Mary Shelley conceiving the novel and Victor Frankenstein conceiving the creature. Unfortunately, the fragmented modern style mixed with the Gothic traditional does not play well. The costumes are either period or evocative of the period, yet the doctor uses a clearly 20th century manufactured mask and gloves in his operation. This creates a wishy-washy attitude that Mary Shelley, as a character, is unable to surmount.
Overall the actors do an excellent job in the characterizations. Mary Shelley is well played by Keila Lorenc. Paul Mitchell as Victor Frankenstein is a little too melodramatic at times, yet the two of them interact nicely in those scenes where Frankenstein is developing his idea for the scientific feasibility of reanimation and Shelley is developing her idea for the story of creation.
Lance Reese does a superb job as Alphonse Godwin, father to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, and he also is the father for Victor Frankenstein and for Victor’s cousin and intended Elizabeth Lavenza played by Krissy Jones. The role of younger brother William is played by Jackson Gifford. Reese delineates these awkward relationships crisply and his performance enhances the understandability of the other performers. The role of Henry Clerval is taken by Christopher Robinson, Lord Byron is Kevin Logan, Professor Waldman is Rich Bailey and Professor Kremke is played by Conor Yob. These gentlemen do an excellent job of representing the period and the pressures upon Mary Shelley to produce a novel calculated to impress her husband’s cronies.
The role of Justine Moritz, the young woman accused of the heinous crime committed by Frankenstein’s Creature, is played by Megan Nicole Nelson with sensitivity. The role of Caroline, wife of Alphonse, who wastes away as the result of the tragedies visited upon her family, is beautifully done by Lana Wood Henson. Christopher Davis plays Captain Walton, James McCown is a realistic blind man and Conner Maguire is the magistrate. The role of the Creature is excellently done by Joshua Irick. Without the expertise of actors Irick and Reese, the play might have been a great deal more difficult to watch.
While this adaptation has been well received by many audiences it takes strict attention to detail to avoid violating the audience expectations. In this production, Conte’s direction is unequal to overcoming the pitfalls inherent in the approach taken by the “Frankenstein” adaptation author, Louise. Good theatre is meant to be entertaining and often thought provoking; perplexing is never the intent of a good dramatist or a good director.
“Frankenstein” is collaboration between Oklahoma City Theatre Company and St. Gregory’s University. “Frankenstein” will be playing through October 27th at the City Space Theatre in the lower level of the Civic Center Music Hall in downtown Oklahoma City. For ticket information visit the Oklahoma City Theatre Company website at www.okctc.org or call 405-297-2264.
Jaefinn Carr debuts as Director in Carpenter Square’s “Lady” by Craig Wright. “Lady” is a drama about three long term buddies who meet for a hunting trip regularly. In the intervening years the three have gone in completely different directions in their lives and philosophies. Although there is an underlying sense that ultimately, in old age, the friendships will survive, the three are hard pressed to find common ground as they face the tragedies of life.
All of the action takes place in the woods as they half-heartedly seek their prey, the elusive woodcock. One of the characters has brought a hunting dog to point the birds, and the dog, Lady, is clearly a beloved family pet as well as a hunting partner. James Tyra portrays Kenny, Lady’s master, Michael Gibbons plays Dyson the hot-headed businessman and Rob May is Graham, the successful politician returning home for the hunt (and some home turf speaking engagements) as well as visiting. As the three gather for old times’ sake they must confront many of the most terrible aspects of adulthood as they are emotionally returning to the young men they once were. They work to resolve their differences with limited success, but ultimately they draw the strength to confront their fears.
Rob May’s portrayal of Graham is outstanding as usual. He is forceful enough to buy his own rhetoric. Michael Gibbons shows us the passionate strength of the usually reserved hard working businessman. James Tyra shows us the sensitive side as he internalizes his struggle with the illness of his wife – a cancer that is ultimately going to destroy his family, as well as the strength he needs to endure.
The set, designed by Caleb Schnackenberg is beautiful and looks very natural. The lighting design by Leslie Currell enhances the stage beautifully. Carr, as a novice director, has a great deal of natural understanding and this skill is proven invaluable in “Lady”; however, he lacks experience in fine-tuning with staging. There are a few places calling for sensitive reactions on the part of the character yet those moments are obscured by stage business.
“Lady” is a well-constructed piece that causes reflection and introspection. The cast acquit themselves nicely and the audience is afforded most of the moments that connect the characters to the viewer. Gibbons, Tyra and especially May bring a sense of duality to their roles that makes the show quite believable.
For the run of the show, Carpenter Square adds a nice ambience with a lobby display of works by a local artist. Gary Bates has a beautiful style in mixed media and his work is powerful and enduring. Bates shows at Contemporary Art Gallery is in the Paseo District of Oklahoma City.
“Lady” plays through November 10, 2012 at Carpenter Square. The new space is located at 800 West Main in downtown Oklahoma City. For ticket information call 405-232-6500 or visit on line at carpentersquare.com.
Lyric Theatre presents “The Mystery of Irma Vep” by Charles Ludlam with great audience appreciation. The story is a spoof of Gothic horror and a tribute to the lowest form of humor—the pun. The show honors every classic movie and the Victorian melodrama with respect and incredible humor. The action takes place in a typically melancholic Gothic mansion on the moors, where else? Lord and Lady Hillcrest reside in the company of two servants, Jane Twisden and Nicodemus Underwood. Lady Enid Hillcrest is a newcomer, having replaced the previous Lady Irma Hillcrest, deceased for several years. Lord Edgar Hillcrest is an Egyptologist and Lady Hillcrest is a former actress. Jane Twisden, the faithful companion to the first Lady Hillcrest attends her and Nicodemus Underwood, the old family retainer are the only servants seen on the estate. An Egyptian guide accompanies Lord Hillcrest when he excavates an Egyptian tomb.
All of the wonderful characters in “The Mystery of Irma Vep” are played by two actors. Jeffrey Meek and Monte Riegel Wheeler are the two actors. The program lists Meek as Jane Twisden and Wheeler as Nicodemus Underwood. The program also lists Lady Hillcrest as Dame Judith Sneerwell but the role is actually done by Wheeler. Sir Cecil Cumberbatch is listed as portraying Lord Hillcrest, but that role is actually done by Meek. The role of the guide in Egypt is taken by Wheeler as well.
Clearly there is a great deal of confusion and hilarity with these two actors portraying all these characters that are so different. The possibilities for humor are endless and the difficulty of creating that humor is invisible. Director Michael Baron begins with a perfect cast and sets them on a perfect stage giving them a perfectly synchronized crew. Wheeler and Meek have the talent to pull off a great show but more than this, they bring to their roles dedication to craft, long hours of rehearsal creating seamlessly timed changes and a passion for pleasing their audience that cannot be underestimated.
While “The Mystery of Irma Vep” is a professional production, the entire cast and crew exhibit more than mere professionalism – they envelop the audience in the warm embrace of their love of humor and entertainment. They make it look easy, but we know it is not. “The Mystery of Irma Vep” is clearly a labor of love. From the cast, director, costume designer, scene designer, lighting designer, make-up designer and sound designer and from the entire crew laughter and joy emanate into the audience, permeating the pores, stimulating the soul and tickling the funny bone.
Lyric’s “The Mystery of Irma Vep” can be seen through October 27th at the Plaza Theatre located at 1727 N.W. 15th and the box office telephone number is 405-524-9312, Call for reservations for “The Mystery of Irma Vep” or for information on the upcoming shows and the 2013 Season. Don’t miss the chills, thrills, this is a great show! The slapstick is reminiscent of Mel Brooks and also, in this production, importantly and earnestly, the pun also rises!
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.
The second show in Season 55 at the Jewel Box Theatre consists of two one acts rather than the usual two-act play. The two shows “The Ugly Duckling” by A. A. Milne and “Sorry, Wrong Number” by Lucille Fletcher. Director, Chuck Tweed uses one cast for both shows giving the audience a nice opportunity to see different facets and talents of actors in in one evening.
“The Ugly Duckling” is a favorite for the general audience not limited to children although the kids love anything Milne. The story is familiar to most as the lovely young princess is not considered beautiful until she meets the love that allows her beauty to shine through.
Paul Smith has a wonderfully unique cadence in his speech, but his deliberate and distinctive delivery does not lend itself to dialogue and, as a result “The Ugly Duckling” comes across as choppy. Jackie Smola as Queen is quite amusing, and the young ladies Allyson Rose as The Princess (wallflower) and Rachael Messer as Dulcibella (the pretty one) are both delightful. Clint Kubat plays the Prince and Tony DeGiusti is Carlo the servant, and those scenes with the royals falling in love with no assistance from their lackeys are rather nice. The Chancellor is played by Vincent Johns, and he is slightly stiff in his portrayal. While ordinarily these scenes should work well, the interchanges between Smith and Johns become uncomfortably due to the erratic pacing. Unfortunately without any flow “The Ugly Duckling” misses the mark by a tail feather.
After intermission Tweed directs “Sorry, Wrong Number” with the same cast. And the whole evening turns around. “Sorry, Wrong Number” is a short thriller about an invalid woman confined to her bed and home alone. While attempting to contact her husband, her call becomes crossed with another and she overhears what she believes must be a murder plot. She can do nothing but attempt to get help for the unknown victim from the telephone company and the police by phone.
Smola portrays the invalid, Mrs. Stevens, realistically and skillfully. Tweed’s direction allows her to build the suspense is this thriller with chilling results. Smith’s delivery is perfect for his role as Sgt. Duffy. Messer as several Information Operators is delightful as she develops several humorous operator characters. Rose is also a Telephone Operator as well as Mrs. Curtis and a Woman and each of her characters is also amusing and fun to watch. Clint Kubat as the Attendant and Tony Degiusti, the man from Western Union are both excellent. Vincent Johns develops George nicely. All of the characters are crucial in developing and maintaining the constant state of suspense that poor Mrs. Stevenson feels as her world begins to fall apart. This cast certainly supports the terror needed. Her movements are stiff in the way of a true invalid and her fear is palpable, permeating the stage with her terror. There are no missing tail feathers here!
A Night of One-Acts continues through October 28, 2012. The Jewel Box Theatre is located at 3700 N. Walker in uptown Oklahoma City. The box office is open Tuesday through Friday afternoons to take reservations at 405-521-1786. Also visit the website: jewelboxtheatre.org. “Sorry, Wrong Number” is definitely worth the visit.