In the arts there are no sacred cows, so despite the fact that Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 flick “The 39 Steps” appears high on a few all-time great British film lists, it’s ripe for skewering. Patrick Barlow has done just that in his amusing 2005 play, now being given an entertaining production at Home Made Theater.
The script follows the story of Richard Hannay (Conrad Browne Lorcher), a 37-year-old Londoner who finds himself caught up in a spy ring eager to smuggle secrets vital to the British air defense out of the country. Wrongly implicated in the murder of a strange woman he meets at a music hall, Annabella Schmitt (Molly McGrath), Hannay is soon on the run from the police, a trip that takes him to Scotland and into the clutches of the plot’s mastermind. Along the way, he encounters other characters, all played to a fare-thee-well by McGrath, and Alan Edstrom and Ben Katigiri, who are listed in the program as Clown 1 and Clown 2, respectively.
‘The 39 Steps’
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park
WHEN: Through Feb. 24
HOW MUCH: $26 & $23
MORE INFO: 587-4427, or www.homemadetheater.org
With a nod to Charles Ludlam’s “Irma Vep” and the Monty Python crew, Barlow has Edstrom and Katigiri changing costumes and roles sometimes before our eyes, but most often in a Velcro frenzy backstage. Male? Female? Old? Young? English? Scottish? Whatever the moment calls for, and the more over-the-top the portrayal, the better. For example, McGrath’s Annabella has an accent you couldn’t cut with a knife, and Edstrom and Katigiri play manic policemen, lovey-dovey married couples, and silly strangers on a train.
The pace is generally fast and funny, thanks to the work of veteran director Dianne O’Neill Filer and, in no small part, to the assistance of the stage crew, who move the set pieces on and off with efficiency. Jane Parisi’s sound design (with Anne-Marie Baker’s spot-on execution) adds to the ambience and amusement, and Sherry Recinella’s costumes are apt and indestructible.
Occasionally, some bits slow the action or seem undercooked. The two old Scottish codgers have their moments, but the shtick wears out its welcome. The train scene is awkwardly blocked, and, while the handcuff routines involving Lorcher and McGrath are certainly headed in the right direction, they will no doubt become crisper than they were at Saturday’s opening (postponed from Friday because of the storm) as the play’s run continues.
Lorcher ably plays the straight man throughout, but there is clearly evidence of a nimble funny man in some of his moves. McGrath has fun with three distinct roles that benefit from her range. Edstrom & Katigiri work off of each other with ease. In particular, Katigiri (who appeared in another Hitchcock send-up at Curtain Call last season) has an expressive face and a physical elasticity that make nearly every gesture inspired.
If you like a good spoof — and you don’t really even need to know the movie well to enjoy parody here — you’ll appreciate the work of Filer and company at Home Made Theater.