Theatre Review: The 39 Steps – 12 reasons you should go

When I sat down to write my review of The 39 Steps, currently on stage at the Arts Club Stanley Theatre, I thought I would be clever and give 39 reasons why you should go see this show.  But when I started to put my list together I quickly realized that there really are only 12 reasons: the cast and production team of this laugh-out-loud homage to Hitchcock.

First on the list is the cast: Diana Coatsworth (#1), Martin Happer (#2), Shawn Macdonald (#3) and David Marr (#4).  While Happer’s turn as Richard Hannay, the dashingly good looking protagonist of the piece, and Coatsworth’s own multiple personalities are nothing to sneeze at, it really are Macdonald and Marr that get full marks for playing the dozens of other characters, both male and female, which pepper this Patrick Barlow adaptation.

Macdonald and Marr are kept so busy by director Dean Paul Gibson (#5) that by the end of the show you just know they’ll be gulping Gatorade like any pro athlete after the big game.  From police to innkeepers, from streams to brambles (I kid you not) this duo proves they are at the top of their game.  And if it weren’t enough that they are technically adept at what are some insanely quick character changes, they also appear to be having a bloody good time doing it.

The 39 Steps
Martin Happer, Diana Coatsworth, Shawn Macdonald, David Marr in the Arts Club production of The 39 Steps. Photo by David Cooper.

Director Gibson has once again shown his strength around farces.  Last season Gibson gave us the “riotously funny” Black Comedy and while The 39 Steps is definitely a riot and definitely funny, I think he has so outdone himself here, providing so many laugh-out-loud funny moments, that “riotously funny” doesn’t quite do it justice.  From Hannay’s hilarious escape from a “moving” train to the inventive use of doors and windows, Gibson not only milks every bit of comedy from the script and his actors, but manages to take all of the show’s production elements to dizzying delights.

Ted Roberts’ (#6) and Rebekka Sorensen’s (#7) seemingly simple set and costumes allow for some incredibly quick changes and visual treats; Marsha Sibthorpe’s (#8) lighting, complete with shadow puppets, adds to the silliness of it all and Murray Price (#9) gives us some wonderful music to underscore the action.  Of course, given the complexity of some of the scene and costume changes, there is not one but three stage managers led by Angela Beaulieu (#10) and ably assisted by Rachel Bland (#11) and Amy Tipton (#12).

Of course, like any Hitchcock movie, you’ll need to keep your eye open for that familiar silhouette to make an appearance.  While you’re at it keep a look out for all the references to his other movies as well.

But wait!  Now I’ve given you reason 13 and 14 to see this show, and I only promised you 12.  Believe me, those 12 are more than enough reason to see The 39 Steps.

4 Out of 5 Stars The 39 Steps
Arts Club Stanley Theatre
Now through 21 November 2010

Tickets are available online or by calling 604.687.1644.

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