Millbrook Playhouse has done it again. THE 39 STEPS is a complete surprise! When I first saw that Millbrook would be doing a production of Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film THE 39 STEPS, I was delighted. The movie is a classic suspense film done as only Hitchcock could do suspense. When I heard that Millbrook would be doing it as a spoof, and with only four actors, I was apprehensive to say the least. I should have trusted Artistic Director, Teresa Pond.
Selecting Lawrence Lesher to direct was the first good decision. Regular patrons of Millbrook know Lawrence as an actor. Remember Saunders in Lend Me A Tenor? It is nice to know that he has the directorial touch to do fast moving comedy as well. The pacing is crucial to this show.
Getting the right four actors was also vital. These four people are responsible for playing over 150 roles. Yes, you read that correctly…..150 roles played by four actors. Now you see why pacing was so important.
The exception to the above paragraph is Chris Kateff who played the single role of Richard Hannay, the innocent man who gets pulled into the spy/murder/intrigue/ romance plot. There were few times that Chris was not on stage and the audience depended on him to keep us abreast of the story line. He also has the sophistication of a true British leading man. It was the little touches that reminded us that he was in a farce. I loved his reaction to hearing the radio describe him as he was running from the law. He ran a little taller and prouder as the radio announcer gave his physical facts. I would love to see this actor in some of the roles listed in his bio.
Synge Maher had the fun of playing most of the women parts. She got to be the murder victim, the submissive wife, as well as the love interest, thus giving her a chance to show impressive acting skills. Synge understood that sometimes the best way to do comedy is to do it straight. This is especially true if everyone around you is a little frantic.
Tim Cox and Matt Harris played every other role. They each had so much energy and talent that the show raced to its logical conclusion before I knew it. Keeping the different parts with different voices and accents took amazing skill. The train scene had to be watched to be believed. The two actors never left our sight but we watched a newsboy selling the ever important newspaper with the picture of our hero on the front page, the train conductor trying to get everyone back on the train, the local constable, a policeman, and I am sure that I have missed some more. This was a fast change of voice, hats, and simple props. I was very impressed with how fast they moved and never got the parts confused. It really had to be seen to be believed.
The female roles not played by Miss. Maher were handled by Matt Harris. Matt kept the theatre tradition alive of cross-dressing comedy. Why are we so amused by men dressed as women? It never seems to get old. Tim Cox even in a comedy plays a very believable villain. These guys were terrific. I would imagine that by the end of the two week run, they will both have lost a significant amount of weight.
So many little bits of business made this a very funny show. I had fun just watching for references to other Hitchcock films. Watch for them; they are cleverly worked into the dialog, music, and props. As all Hitchcock fans know, he made a “hidden” appearance in each of his films. Watch carefully for him in this production of his THE 39 STEPS.
THE 39 STEPS will run through August the 5th. The Fantastiks will run from August 2 through August 12. This production will showcase some of the best talent that Millbrook has given us this summer.
Now for the good news: After the conclusion of the regular schedule, Millbrook treats us to an encore production of their most popular play from that season. This may have been a difficult year to pick only one, but I think that their choice of Lend Me a Tenor is the right one. I went to see it twice and will go the third time if I can find someone to go with. It will be in the Cabaret from August 16-19.
Call 570-748-8088 for ticket information.