Some mis­steps, but farce a faith­ful ef­fort

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Stage - By Christo­pher Blank

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

Spoof­ing sus­pense thrillers and mur­der mys­ter­ies has long been a pas­time of play­wrights and screen­writ­ers, each skew­er­ing the gen­res in slightly dif­fer­ent ways. Neil Si­mon filled a coun­try manor with fa­mous lit­er­ary de­tec­tives in “Mur­der by Death.” Tom Stop­pard wrote a who­dunit-within-a-who­dunit in “The Real In­spec­tor Hound.” Charles Busch’s cross-dress­ing caper “The Lady in Ques­tion” sat­i­rized 1940s thrillers such as “No­to­ri­ous” and “Es­cape.”

Trans­form­ing Al­fred Hitch­cock’s 1935 thriller “The 39 Steps” into a full-on farce, how­ever, was a feat that earned play­wright Pa­trick Bar­low and his cast of ac­tors the kind of ac­claim that usu­ally comes with a truly orig­i­nal con­cept. The script quotes the film al­most ver­ba­tim with the ex­cep­tion of a few nods to other Hitch­cock movies (such as the fa­mous air­plane chase scene from “North by North­west“).

The re­gional pre­miere of “The 39 Steps,” which opened last Fri­day at Cir­cuit Play­house, re­tains the Monty Python-es­que spirit, if not the over­all hi­lar­ity, of the orig­i­nal Lon­don pro­duc­tion.

One ac­tor (Michael Gravois) plays Richard Han­nay, a thin-mus­tached English­man who stum­bles into a plot to steal mil­i­tary se­crets. One ac­tress (Jenny Lynn Christoffersen) plays the three ro­man­tic fe­male roles: a spy with an over-the -top East­ern-Euro­pean ac­cent, a lone­some high­land lass, and a prim English­woman. Two ac­tors (Ryan Kath­man and Matt Reed) play ev­ery­one else, some­thing like 100 char­ac­ters be­tween them, from bob­bies to pa­per­boys to ho­tel pro­pri­etors to mu­sic hall per­form­ers. “Greater

The cast of four repli­cates a chase scene on a crowded train from Al­fred Hitch­cock’s thriller “The 39 Steps,” run­ning at Cir­cuit Play­house through June 5.

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