Some missteps, but farce a faithful effort
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.