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

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Latest in Theater Reviews

  • Standout acting

    In romantic 'Bridges.'
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • Life during wartime

    The Rep updates Homer with 'An Iliad.'
    • Mar 3, 2016
  • A modern Pan

    "Peter and the Starcatcher" adds a modern flair to the Peter Pan story.
    • Jan 28, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »

December

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 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Woeful

    • If the UA could get the SEC to stop all games if at any time…

    • on December 2, 2016
  • Re: Woeful

    • The Mizz loss was worse than getting beat by Louisiana-Moron

    • on December 2, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation