March 11, 2013
LaGrange College Theatre's latest production takes what audiences think they know about Alfred Hitchcock and stands it on its ear.
Winner of the 2007 Olivier Award for best new comedy in London as well as two Tony awards, "The 39 Steps" is a spoof of Hitchcock's 1939 film about an unsuspecting Englishman, Richard Hannay, as he is inadvertently drawn into an elaborate plot by a dark and beautiful female spy.
When the same woman is mysteriously murdered in Hannay's apartment, he must flee the country in an attempt to save his own life from her diabolical pursuers.
Director Kim Barber Knoll said the play has been described as a show that pays homage to the theater.
"That's because six actors play all the roles, more than 100 of them, and create locations with props, scenery pieces and costume pieces that you would find in any theater. But it also spoofs that wonderful Hitchcock style of mystery and old movie romance and suspense."
Knoll said this production perfectly addresses the proverbial secret of comedy.
"It's all in the timing," she said. "With more than 90 sound cues and 30 costume changes in the first act alone, the production flies at a breakneck pace with exaggerated style and wit. It's astonishing what you can create with some trunks, a phone and a couple of doors."
Her actors agree.
"It's one of the funniest plays we've ever done," said D.J. Grooms, who is playing Hannay. "It's a challenge to work on the pace and the heightened style of acting and humor."
Mary Hannah Robertson said everything has to be believable but bigger – much bigger.
"You have to be unafraid to make a fool of yourself," she said. "And that is fun!"
Cody Smith and Austin Taylor play the two clowns.
"Our challenge is the number of changes – costumes, props and characters – sometimes in the same scene," said Austin.
Elissa Morman said her challenge has been a little different.
"I had to try to master a Scottish accent, but there are lots and lots of accents!"
Knoll said the play has everything.
"It's funny, exciting, romantic and surprising, with a little bit of magic thrown in."
Jim and Anne Short, natives of Scotland, are serving as Scottish dialect coaches. Hannah Sharp, a Rotary exchange student from England, is helping with the British accents and Neal Brumbeloe is lending a hand with the show's magic.
"Nate Tomsheck, Scenic and Lighting Designer, has really captured the spirit and style of old Broadway in the scenery and props," Knoll said. "It's wonderful for the students to work this kind of high comedy during the 30s time period.
"It's been a terrific collaboration for everyone involved."
"The 39 Steps" opens March 20.
"That's a Wednesday," Knoll said. "We usually open on a Thursday, but we're changing it for this production."
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. March 20-23, with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on March 23 and 24. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for non-LaGrange College students and senior citizens. They are available at the Price Theater box office from noon to 4 p.m. weekdays and go on sale Monday. Faculty and staff admission is free, but tickets must be reserved in advance.
For more information, call the box office at (706) 880-8080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.