The Chattanooga Theatre Centre opens the Stagedoor Series of plays with the hilarious comedy "The 39 Steps" presented on the Mildred M. Montague CircleStage Sept. 14–29. Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and the result is this fast-paced whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre.
This two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award-winner is packed with nonstop laughs, more than 150 zany characters (played by a ridiculously talented cast of four), an on-stage plane crash, handcuffs, missing fingers and some good old-fashioned romance.
CTC Artistic Director Scott Dunlap directs Patrick Barlow's comedic adaptation of John Buchan's 1915 novel and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock. The play opened on Broadway in 2008 and won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. The New York Times called it "theatre at its finest" and the New York Post raved that "The 39 Steps" was, "the most entertaining show on Broadway." "The 39 Steps" ended its New York run after three years and record number of performances for a comedy – 1,135.
"Both the cinema-phile and the theatre nerd will find something to appreciate," said Mr. Dunlap. "This show takes a huge film and boils it down to something simple, clever and funny." He notes that there are many references to Hitchcock films in the play, but it’s not necessary to have seen any of the films – including the original "The 39 Steps" movie – to enjoy the play.
Mr. Dunlap notes that, while many cite the humor in the play as Python-esque, he sees it more as a Mel Brooks pastiche … "particularly Brooks’ movies done in the film noir style."
Mr. Dunlap has assembled a cast of four actors that he describes as "tremendously talented and really funny."
Audience favorite LeBron Benton plays Richard Hannay, who is introduced to the espionage organizations known as "The 39 Steps" through a spy, played by Joanna Lewis. Lewis plays all three women romantically entangled with Hannay in the show while Jim Eernisse and Justin Bridges quick-change their way through the hundreds of other men, women and children characters.
Playwright Patrick Barlow is an English actor and comedian. He wrote in the adaptor's forward to "The 39 Steps" (Samuel French, 2009) about his process, "One of the thrilling things about writing this was the challenge of putting an entire movie on stage - complete with train chases, plane crashes, shadowy murders, beautiful spies, trilbied heavies, dastardly villains with little fingers missing, not to mention some of the most iconic moments in the history of cinema. There is much opportunity for comedy and satire here. But it's also a love story."
Tickets are $18. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. on Sept. 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 and 29. For more information and to purchase tickets online, visit TheatreCentre.com or call 423 267-8534.