Favorite

'The 39 Steps' impresses 

click to enlarge theater_review1-1.jpg

Arkansas Repertory Theatre, June 10

Perhaps there will be a few theatergoers who won't appreciate the current production of "The 39 Steps" at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. It is, after all, an adaptation of a mostly forgotten Alfred Hitchcock film and mostly done so for laughs. When translated to the stage, the inherent silliness of the story — an ordinary British bachelor caught up in an absurdly complicated spy ring — is the primary attraction. The Rep's production, directed by Bob Hupp, delivers the silliness with expert flair and even generates an emotional connection. But maybe there are some in the audience expecting and wanting more meat on their theatrical bones.

This group has to be in tiny minority because "The 39 Steps" is like theatrical champagne — it's bright, fizzy and will lift your spirits. The trick at the center, in which four actors play a cast of hundreds and create on stage what only makes sense to film (such as a chase on top of a speeding train), is a seemingly endless fountain of fun. The play is funny, and funny to watch.

The race begins with dapper, pencil-mustached Richard Hannay (played by Avery Clark) bemoaning his boring life in London and the endless newspaper talk of war. He needs a diversion, something trivial, "I know. I'll go to the theater!" he exclaims to great guffaws. There are many more knowing winks to the audience to come.

Hannay is almost instantly delivered from his boredom into the arms of the beautiful but mysterious Annabelle Schmidt (the first of three roles for Nikki Coble), who talks of secrets, Scotland and then falls over dead with a knife in her back. On the run, Hannay bumps into and flees from a legion of characters, all of them played by Jason Guy (Clown 1) or Jason Collins (Clown 2). All of the crazy action is played out on Mike Nichols' striking but spare set. The actors transport us to the speeding train, the Scottish mansion, a runaway car and elsewhere with the help of lights and a few props and their tremendous skill. The clowns literally do the heavy lifting (including a lamppost in one of the play's best gags) but the pair are graceful and precise as ballet dancers. Only in a few spots did it seem like Guy and Collins go too broad (the couple that runs the hotel, for instance).

Clark has the straight-man role but he's smart and intuitive and doesn't miss many chances for finding laughs. For proof, check out the way he falls asleep. Clark effortlessly captures and keeps the attention thrown his way. The Rep has benefited greatly from his presence this season (he was the lead in "Hamlet") and would do well to find him more roles. But those who haven't had the chance or are in the mood for a sweet night in theater need to check out "The 39 Steps."

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Werner Trieschmann

  • 'Disfarmer': behind the camera

    The strange case of Arkansas photographer Disfarmer, subject of a new play opening this weekend.
    • Sep 25, 2014
  • Live Review: Eric Church and Dwight Yoakam at Verizon

    Apparently Dwight Yoakam’s acting career is sufficiently slack enough that Friday night saw him opening for bro-country kingpin Eric Church at Verizon Arena. Hollywood is taking Yoakam in small enough doses (he has a recurring part on CBS’s “Under the Dome”) that he can lend his considerable talents to country music, which currently can use any kind of flavor it can get.
    • Sep 15, 2014
  • Musical 'Shrek' succeeds, mostly

    If light family entertainment is your speed.
    • Nov 2, 2011
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • An uneven 'Macbeth'

    Michael Stewart Allen as Macbeth carries the play.
    • Sep 17, 2015

Most Shared

  • Constituents go Cotton pickin' at Springdale town hall

    Sen. Tom Cotton, cordial to a fault, appeared before a capacity crowd at the 2,200 seat Pat Walker Performing Arts Center at Springdale High tonight to a mixed chorus of clapping and boos. Other than polite applause when he introduced his mom and dad and a still moment as he led the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance — his night didn't get much better from there.
  • Stand up for Little Rock

    If Little Rock deteriorates because of substandard schools, there will be blame aplenty to share. But some elected leaders deserve special mention.
  • Hating the media

    Presidents, with the exception of George Washington, never found much joy with the media, although Donald Trump is the first to use the scarily freighted words "enemies of the people."
  • What's new and coming soon to Argenta

    A riverfront hotel, new residential development, food, drink and more.
  • Downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock are back in business

    Main Street and beyond bustles.

Latest in Theater Reviews

Visit Arkansas

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries

Event Calendar

« »

February

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28  
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation