‘The 39 Steps’ Continues Friday At The Lucille Ball Little Theatre
The play “The 39 Steps” continues on stage at the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown and this review reflects the fast-paced whodunit performance Saturday evening. “The 39 Steps” is a melodrama play adapted by Patrick Barlow in 2005, based on a 1935 film by the master of mystery and suspense Alfred Hitchcock. It is based on a novel written in 1915 by John Buchan.
“One of the thrilling things about writing this was the challenge of putting an entire movie on stage, complete with film noir murders, shootings, train chases, planes crashes, heavies in fast cars, villains with little fingers missing, not to mention some of the most classis moments in the history of cinema,” noted Barlow in the forward to the script.
Richard Olson-Walter, artistic director for this production, notes “mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you have this award winning treat packed with non stop laughs over 150 zany characters played by a ridiculously talented cast of four.”
John Pickett plays “Richard Hannay” who is the hapless hero of the play. Pickett’s accent was consistent “who the bloody hell cares,” as he portrayed this ordinary man who led a hum-drum existence until he finds himself fleeing from the wrongful accusations of murder. Hannay takes the audience through a series of improbably adventures as he is pursued by the authorities at the Palladium, a train top pursuit, and the Forth Rail Bridge, from the shadows of 1930 England, to Scotland and beyond. The characters travel to 19 different locations through this two-act play. Several of Hannay exits were quite humorous and reserved for audience enjoyment. Pickett was solid and romantic as he encountered the characters of Danica Olson-Walter.
Danica’s accents were consistent and fluid with dynamics and sensitivity as she skillfully portrayed “Anabella Schmitt,” the beautiful woman Hannay meets at a London Theatre. There is a meak gun-shot that frightened Schmitt where she talked Hannay into taking her back to his flat where she confesses to be a spy. Schmitt was dressed all in black where she sported a pageboy style, also black. Hannay’s flat was sparse, black and white. The black and white design may have been a Hitchcock reference.
Ms. Walter-Olson was ravishing as the attractive woman “Pamela,” that Hannay meets on the train to Scotland. She was beautifully costumed in a royal blue and white empire dress with a blonde waved hairstyle and black character heels. Her characterization of Pamela was realistic including her accent and the toe lifts that extended her elegance. As “Margaret,” the red-headed wife of the farmer she invites Hannay to stay the night at their cottage and helps Hannay get away from the “police,” that are at the door.
The remaining parts 100 to 150 are skillful played with intricate synergy by Rycheigh Allan “Clown #1 and Aubrey Russell as “Clown #2, however they never appear as clowns rather as multiple quick change volleying dialectics various hats, costumes and propped characters whether male of female. Rycheigh Allan appears at the top of the show as Mr. Memory, a gifted man that commits fifty new daily facts and demonstrates his photographic memory in at the Palladium donning a green-jeweled trilby turban. Rycheigh executed a plethora of roles including not limited to the cottage farmer, newsboy, police, etc. At times his characters were gruff, accents interfered with diction where the cottage farmer voice resembled that of a pirate. Allan certainly would get several cheerios for his final monologue as Mr. Memory where he defined the meaning of 39 Steps.
Russell as Clown #2 embodied numerous roles not limited to but including Professor Jordon, the Sheriff, the police, a constable, and a jilted hotel clerk. This energetic actor’s accents where consistent and easier to understand. Russell was knowledge of comedy relief and appeared comfortable in his changing roles.
The pace of the show was variable with a good pace in the complex scenes, however the slower monologue seemed to drag somewhat. The audience may have anticipated actually a faster pace based on media report. There were several scenes that were noteworthy or cheerio worthy including the train scene that consisted of several boxcars defined by green handled boxes and overhung lights that denoted a stopped train. A moving mural added a dynamic component that accented the moving train. Russell and Allan had several rounds of “excuse me — pardon me,” as they were attempting to exit the car that they shared with Hannay who escaped via the train window followed by Russell and Allan. This may have been an audience favorite as the characters negotiated the ledge of the train while fluttering their clothing to denote the wind of the moving train.
Jason Dorman was Technical Director and Lighting Designer. Norman Merrill as Master Carpenter assisted with the design and construction of the moving elements not limited to beautiful rounded theatre box seats, rolling door frames, windows, and furniture that were crewed by the following: Melanie Schely, John Linza, Melissa Vullo, and Amy Woodfield. Anne Eklund, Lindsay Russell and Luanne Wanamaker were dressers. In order to make the characters distinct to the audience, there are over 25 wigs and hats and over 30 costume changes throughout this production.
The follow spot (Andrew Roby) was effective in tracking Hannay as he evaded the police. Cathy Smith should be commended as Stage Manager. There were several other creative scenes involving shadow puppets that depict the action, flying planes and Hannay running with a dimensional effect.
Richard Olson-Walter and Brittany Grover get several cheerios for the Sound Design and intricate run of the show which started with the “Suite Dial M for Murder” as Preshow to popular Scottish romantic music, sound effects: applause, train, chase and the phone which was suppose to have a mind of its own. Sound was significant for this show and executed without a flaw. If blank guns are not going to be used a more significant effect would be indicated as the existing gunshot was almost unnoticeable.
Significant cheerios are extended to the cast, crew and directors for the speed and execution of this dynamic, synergistic and fluid production, which most likely will change from show to show which may encourage audience attendance at more than more performance. The audience chuckled in a popcorn rift throughout this production. They may admit it was hard to figure out when to clap as the action perpetuated without delays.
This performance continues on stage at the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown, Inc. Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance of each performance at $20 by calling the Little Theatre Box Office at 483-1095 or by visiting lucilleballlittletheatre.org/reservations. The Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown, Inc. is located at 18 – 21 E. Second St., Jamestown, NY 14701.