In looks as well as manner Michael Frederic owns the part of Richard Hannay, the stalwart tweedy Englishman, throughout the production. Playing the mysterious women, Letitia Lange best handles the typical cool Hitchcock blonde roles, while seeming uncomfortably wigged as the murdered foreign spy. Her accent isn't always easy to understand. Almost all of the 150 characters, however, pratfall to two "clowns", oversized Curran Connor and slimmer, shorter Sheffield Chastain, for portrayal. They work effectively fast and furiously as Mr. Memory, police, railroad employees, farmer and wife, detectives, inn keepers, bystanders, crowd members, spy ring and its chief. Under the direction of Eric Hissom, who was a clown in a national tour of the play, their appearances take the form of vaudeville turns-literally whenever they flip sides of their bodies or use hats to change identities. As broad burlesque, the mode sometimes gets repetitive or simply draws attention to itself rather than characters or what they say and do. When the dialogue includes a reference to a Hitchcock movie title, it's emphasized as if an audience needs help in "getting" it. This points to a difference between FST's production and "The 39 Steps" I saw early in its London run. The Brits delivered the lines straight, trusting the audience to understand allusions to Hitchcock's films as well as the comedic thrust of the play and its farcical elements. To me, the serious version seemed funnier.
April Soroko's costumes and uncluttered scenic design, embellished by appropriate props and frequent appearance of a door, admirably aid transformations of characters and 30 locales. A backlit plastic shower curtain and emulation of an airplane swooping down and out into the theatre are striking within Joseph P. Oshry's resourceful lighting design. Keeping the audience Spellbound is Britt Sandusky's sound design and engineering.
Production Stage Manager for is Kelli Karen. Eric Hissom's direction dictates such swift movement that the two acts and a 15 minute break last but 1 hour, 55 minutes in all.
Return to Home Page