Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Thirty-Nine Steps : TheatreWorks : Marvelous Cast Elevates Material

The Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts is such a lovely venue. It’s undoubtedly among the finest mid-sized theatres in the Bay Area. And the TheatreWorks productions invariably live up to the promise of the immaculate décor that surrounds them.

The Thirty-Nine Steps, loosely based upon the Alfred Hitchcock film classic of Hollywood’s Golden Age, is an entertaining farce featuring dozens of characters performed with frenetic precision by a meager cast of four. Yes, I said four! 

Mark Anderson Phillips, as the iconic, wrongfully accused protagonist Richard Hannay, has the relatively easy task of portraying a single role. He adroitly assumes the prim British affectation with the requisite stiff upper lift and a tongue planted firmly in cheek.

He’s supported brilliantly by Dan Hiatt, Cassidy Brown and Rebecca Dines, all of whom tackle their multiple parts with a seemingly endless supply of energy, dialects and comic acumen. One could suffer whiplash just keeping up with them as they magically switch roles and manipulate props at a breakneck pace!

The set design, although rendered with impeccable taste, serves mostly as a backdrop for the intricately choreographed blocking. The exemplary staging, creative lighting design, and clever use of music clips from the scores of other great Hitchcock movies, all serve to sweeten the experience.

Alas, much to my chagrin, the second act does wane a bit, but that does not diminish the steadfast commitment of this splendid company of players. They do not permit the anemic script to undermine the fun to be had. Indeed, as Brits are wont to do, they carry on undeterred, handling the sly slapstick and shameless in-jokes with alacrity!

One should not allow such dedication to go unseen. Please make your way to the beautiful theatre on Castro Street and demonstrate your appreciation with richly deserved laughter and applause!

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