Cedar Street Theatre’s production of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” offers a wink-wink, nod-nod to the audience where the laughter is truly genuine as you watch the story unfold.
The show concludes its two-weekend run, April 12-14 at the Nellie and Lou Bozigian Family Theatre at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center.
Adapted by Patrick Barlow from Hitchcock’s 1935 film, which itself is loosely based on John Buchan’s 1915 novel, “The 39 Steps,” directed by David Wright, it is a comedy-thriller that is high on comedy.
It’s Hitchcock, so yes, a murder does takes place at the start of show. However, it is mostly played for laughs thanks to the stellar cast of four actors who portray all the characters.
The story follows the hero Richard Hannay (Dan Swaney), who meets a mysterious female German spy — Annabella Schmidt (Courtney Unander) — after he goes to the theater. They return to Hannay’s place after the show. Annabella ends up dead. Hannay is wrongly branded the murderer. The fun begins after he escapes and looks to clear his name. He must also solve the spy mystery.
What follows feels like the kind of make-believe you might do in your backyard with minimal stage pieces at your disposal, but lots of imagination and fun.
The cast does wonders with Wright’s spartan stage set design. You hold your breath as they inch along the side of a train. The bottom of a podium doubles as a steering wheel with chairs making the car.
Robert “Bobby” Fromer’s lighting design and Director Wright and J.C. Gafford’s sound design help put the audience in the setting as Hannay travels to Scotland to unravel the mystery.
There is creative playfulness and multiple references to Hitchcock films throughout the play. Look for the shadow puppets from “North by Northwest.”
Jonathan Hall and Eric Leiss as Clown 1 and Clown 2, respectively, each play multiple scene-stealing characters, both male and female, sometimes within seconds of each other, just by switching hats, accents or coats. They have a riotous time and the audience does, also. The play feels part Monty Python, part slapstick comedy, part vaudeville.
After her mysterious spy is knocked off, Unander returns to play two more characters, the Scottish farm wife, Margaret and the sophisticated British lady Pamela Edwards, who are romantic interests for Swaney’s Hannay.
Unander changes characters with different accents and wigs that give each a distinct personality. She is polished and sweet. Swaney is the only actor in the show limited to one character. But his Hannay is urbane and funny and he carries himself well.
Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” will be on stage at 8 p.m., April 12 and 13; and 7 p.m., April 14.
Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for seniors age 62 and older and for military and $14 for youth 18 and younger.
For details visit www,lpac.org or call 661-723-5950.