Murder and comedy unite in a top-notch production of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps,” now playing at Annapolis Shakespeare Comedy under the direction of Sally Boyett. Boasting only four actors, the fabulous cast takes on a slew of roles as they lead us on a madcap journey to discover who murdered a woman in mild-mannered Brit Richard Hannay’s flat one fateful night in 1935 London.
… a masterfully done production that makes for a remarkably entertaining night of theatre…
Hannay is played to perfection by Brock D. Vickers, who has the job of being the dramatic straight man as far as the plot goes. Yet, this hilarious play adaptation asks him to also bring elaborate physical comedy routines all while maintaining the affluently bored demeanor of a man who’s rather put out to be drawn into an adventure. And Vickers delivers with gusto, portraying annoyance while delivering huge laughs.
Indeed, physical antics supply much of the evening’s humor as the company brings us along on a speeding train chase, an escape from a bedroom window, and a notoriously difficult-to-traverse fence in the road. The cast’s gestures and timing are sublime and their movements always hit the comedic mark as they fully commit to them – and then some.
The play’s two clowns, Andy McCain and Justino Brokaw, trade-off more and more roles at ever-increasing speeds as the story progresses. They get to a point of making split-second costume and character changes, even changing accents, and their ability to turn on a dime brought many laughs.
Sarah Stewart Chapin shines in each of her three unique roles for the evening, first playing a sultry and mysterious spy; then, a slightly ditzy but very proper blonde who wants nothing to do with murder; and, a young Scottish housewife who is more than happy to aid the handsome Hannay in escaping from her vindictive husband. She exhibits great chemistry with Vickers in each of her roles while bringing out the unique comedic elements of each character.
The visual and sound effects are as much a part of the comedy as the actors. Director Boyett also served as the Sound Designer for the production and she and Lighting Designer Adam Mendelson served up laugh after laugh with their playful and precisely timed effects. Voice/Dialect Coach Nancy Krebs is also to be commended as the actors portrayed several unique accents flawlessly and each was completely clear and easy to understand which greatly added to my enjoyment of the evening.
The theatre featured a projection screen as the rear backdrop to the stage and Projections Designer Joshua McKerrow made fabulous use of a variety of detailed images to draw us deeper into the action of the story, including curtains fluttering in the window, an old-timey painted backdrop for the Palladium, and an elaborate mansion in the Scottish highlands, as well as several video clips that the characters interact with, much to the amusement of the audience.
Overall, “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” is a masterfully done production that makes for a remarkably entertaining night of theatre and I highly recommend that you do not miss this fabulous and fun show by Annapolis Shakespeare Company.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one intermission.
Advisory: Due to the thematic material of murder, this play is most suitable for older elementary school-aged children and up.
“Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” by Annapolis Shakespeare Company plays through March 8, 2020. For more information, click here.