The 39 Steps at the Drury Lane is an Acting Masterclass

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I don’t really know what to say about a play that takes the foundational book of British spy literature, among the UK’s best-loved novels, made into one of Alfred Hitchcock’s important early films and decides that Buchan and Hitchcock are stupid and you need to make mockery of their work. So basically, if you loved Hitchcock’s film, you’re coming to a theatrical experience that takes his script and plays it as extremely broad slapstick farce. 

It’s one of those tiresome modern reworkings like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” where some bro thinks he’s more clever than some of the greatest writers of their times and decides to “do them one better” while pointing out just how much not better he actually is.  But all that said, I can’t tell you not to see it.  Because it’s all about great actors transforming something ordinary into the extraordinary.

This flimsy attempt to change a thriller that is very much a product of its era into a comedy rests entirely on some incredible staging and a foursome of actors who can literally change character at the drop of a hat.  With the exception of leading man Gavin Lee, who is in every scene and must hold down the fort as hero Richard Hannay, all of the cast members play multiple roles, sometimes within the same scene.  I can’t readily explain how amazing cast members Zudhi Boueri and Tom Detrinis as the horribly-named Clowns are. Their quick changes of costumes, accents, heights, sexes and anything else you can imagine are among the most astonishing performances I’ve ever had the privilege to witness.  They are worth the price of admission alone.

But the same goes for the leads.  Lee is charming, prim and dorky as Richard Hannay, who is anything but the calm and confident hero of Buchan and Hitchcock’s work, but he mostly has to play straight man to the others, which he does gamely.  And Caitlin Gallogly plays the three primary women in the story with three entirely different looks and accents.  They are absolutely fabulous in this as well and it shows especially in their scenes toward the end. Their excellent performances are somewhat lost when they are interacting with the comedy team of Boueri and Detrinis. When those two are in manic quick-change character mode, you just can’t look away.

Director Johanna McKenzie Miller has done a phenomenal job of getting all the moving parts of this wrangled and the actors working together as a well-oiled machine. Its really a seamless bit of work and she should be commended.

There is much praise to be heaped on the set design by Angela Weber Miller, which both establishes the era of the story and facilitates all of the quick costume and scene changes. It’s well-lit by Lee Fiskness and excellently costumed in period style by Rachel Boylan. The whole creative team did an excellent job on this.

If you go, you will undoubtedly be entertained by all the quality work here.  But if you are a huge fan of Hitchcock or period drama, you might find the whole premise a heavy lift.

Photos by Brett Beiner

About Suzanne Magnuson 131 Articles
Professional writer with 20 plus years of experience. M.A., M.B.A. Travel Editor and Social Media Manager for Splash Magazines Worldwide. Senior Editor. Member of Advertising Team.

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