‘39 Steps’ is a loony good time

‘39 Steps’ is a loony good timeBy BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

What’s better than an early 20th century adventure novel? A film adaptation by the “Master of Suspense” himself, Alfred Hitchcock. What’s better than that? A 2005 parody adaptation of the movie adaptation of the novel “The 39 Steps” by Patrick Barlow. Even better? Community Light Opera and Theatre Association is presenting it this weekend.

The play opens with the disheveled hero, the handsome Richard Hannay, who begins to tell how he found himself dropped into the middle of an international spy game. His goal after reluctantly inheriting a task to keep his county safe — find out who, or what, are the 39 Steps, and what is their mission.

The play, directed by Angie Pritchard, stars CLOTA regular Ben Bockhahn as Hannay. The play was written to have the remaining cast of villains, police, femme fatales, hoteliers and standers-by played by only three actors – whose frantic costume changes contribute to the Looney Tunes feel of the show. This cast includes two additional actors (three, if you count “The Chair,” portraying “Itself” in the program) than are traditionally called for – Beth Sparks-Jacques, Grace Lloyd, Josh Cotterell, Leonas Firme and Steve Busby.

CLOTA delivered a radio show rendition of “The 39 Steps” two years ago (also starring Bockhahn, who shared the Hannay role with Richard MacNeill), which I enjoyed tremendously. It was quick, clever and well acted by the small cast performing multiple roles using different voices.

The casting choice isn’t so easily explained in the full-stage production, but the absurdity of the same actors switching rapidly, turning coats and playing both sides of the game provides plenty of sight gags and meta-humor moments that had me guffawing.

Bockhahn is terrific as usual with his deadpan delivery and understated performance. And the supporting cast helps keep the action afloat whether they’re damsels in distress, sporting absurd foreign accents or pretending to be airplanes.

The play opens May 31, 7 p.m., at CLOTA Center Stage. Additional performances are June 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 7. with a 1:30 matinee on June 9. Tickets are available at Red Rock Books and at the door.

Story First Published: 2019-05-31