Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Having seen this show before, I knew what to expect, but there is an added dimension in seeing The 39 Steps on such an intimate stage as the one at Music Theatre of Connecticut. Being just a few feet away from the actors, the antics in the play, and the vivid acting by the cast, are quite a feat of energy and invention. If the comic momentum occasionally dries up here and there, the terrific performers are always able to add a spark to set things back on course.
In the leading role of Richard Hannay (and the only performer to play just one part), Gary Lindemann is excellent, looking every bit the ideal 1930s leading man. The plot, such as it is, involves Hannay being mistakenly accused of murder and we follow his journey to escape from the police and, ultimately, to try and solve the mystery.
For anyone who has ever seen the Hitchcock film version, it is almost hard to believe that a play adaptation could ever be hilarious. But that is the beauty of Patrick Barlow's work: aside from the actor playing Richard Hannay, there is one actress who takes on all the major female roles, and two actors (categorized in the program as "Clown #1" and "Clown #2") who are assigned to about fifty other parts throughout the play.
Dressed in array of stylish gowns designed by Diane Vanderkroef, Laura Cable is a hoot playing three different women and, if her acting at times comes close to over exaggeration, it is entirely appropriate for the atmosphere and action in this play. This actress also partners Gary Lindemann perfectly, especially during moments in the second act when the two are handcuffed to each other.
As for the two "clowns" in the show, both Matt Densky and Jim Schilling are ideal and they have a field day playing dozens of characters. With his almost rubber-like face, capable of a wide range of expressions, Densky is especially good portraying slyly evil parts and he certainly has a great deal of fun in the show. Schilling is just as expert, even playing some supporting female roles, and he, like Densky, is able to switch characters in a hair's breath, just by changing hats or using a different accent.
Director Pamela Hall keeps the crazy-quilt plot merrily spinning, though there are some moments where the action lags. Still, this presentation of The 39 Steps remains fresh, aided enormously by the inventive group of performers. Jordan Janota's set design and set pieces are just right for this kind of farce, and the lighting design by Michael Blagys captures the film noir feeling of the show perfectly.
The 39 Steps is a play one should see at least once, to experience its riotous theatricality and to watch actors have what appears to be a whale of a time onstage. Music Theatre of Connecticut's production is certainly up to these tasks and provides numerous comedic pleasures.
The 39 Steps, through March 18, 2018, at Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk CT. For tickets and information, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com or call 203-454-3883.