39 Steps – Theater Review
A man with a very ho-hum existence meets a strange lady with an even stranger accent who claims to be a spy. When the man invites her to his home, she ends up murdered. Soon, an inscrutable organization known as “The 39 Steps” is tailing the man in a far-reaching manhunt that is packed with laughs, action, adventure, more than 150 crazy characters (played by just four actors!), and, of course, a little romance.
The 39 Steps is sort of Alfred Hitchcock on LSD, a spoof or homage of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Thirty Nine Stepsmage, with the lead being played by a world weary, matinee idol, all female parts played by one woman and all the rest of the cast being played by two men identified at man one and man two both of whom play multiple characters just before World War II in the 1930s and it has to do with spies and Mata Haris train rides, police border crossings, etc. Well, you get the point. It was a lot of fun when it was on Broadway, and it’s now moved off Broadway. And, the good news is that the smaller stage, to a certain extent, is probably a better venue for it. The lead actor who plays Richard Hennanny, John Behlmann, is younger and more physically adept than the original, but he’s not as good an actor. On the other hand, he’s new at this, and it may be that he’ll kind of mature into the part. But, for the time being, I think when you’re playing farce, you really have to play it straight, and he plays it a little bit tongue-in-cheeky for it to work. But, his physicality is terrific, and the director has taken advantage of the fact that he’s younger and more physical than the original lead. The rest of the cast is — one of the original cast member who plays man one and two is from the original and is just as clever as he ever was. So, the audience really loved this. It really does benefit from the smaller venue. So, if you haven’t seen 39 Steps, you probably want to go see it because it’s great fun. Four stars.