Where can you find murder, suspense, and laughter all rolled into one neat package? Why, at Columbus’s Palace Theatre, of course! The Palace is currently playing home to the touring production of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps from January 19 through January 24. And if you love laughter and blatant comedy, you don’t want to miss this show!
The comedy begins immediately at The 39 Steps, with the traditional “turn off your cell phones” announcement turned into a witty bit of its own. It was from that moment that I was sure I was in for a very hilarious evening. The story itself is fast-paced and exciting. There is never a single dull moment on the stage. In moments that would normally seem dull, it is not too difficult to spot a comedic bit happening on one side of the stage or the other. The characters all have quirks that are emphasized and drawn out, merely adding to the laughter in the audience. If one thing is certain, you cannot be too sure what you are going to see next.
The 39 Steps mixes both physical comedy and fast-paced bantering in the perfect way to get the laughter it deserves. The dialogue is peppered with jokes regarding thick accents that are difficult to understand—a bit used frequently in this show, but one that never ceases to amuse its audience. The physical comedy features human quirks blown out of proportion, overly-dramatic gestures, and liberal use (or, in most cases, misuse) of the props and set pieces of the show. The show also causes laughter through making jokes about its own small cast size, as well as breaking down the fourth wall by talking to the audience. Also, keep your eyes and ears peeled for not-so-veiled references to various Hitchcock films.
The comedic timing and the talent represented in the cast of The 39 Steps is unbelievable. The cast itself contains only four actors, while the story includes a couple handfuls worth of characters. The cast as a whole excels in the comedic timing and facial expressions departments and the individual cast members shine on their own as well. In the leading role of Richard Hannay, Ted Deasy doesn’t hold back for a moment. His acting ability cannot be doubted while watching him perform on stage and he immediately had me laughing. Claire Brownwell does a very skilled switch between the three female characters—Annabella Schmidt, Pamela, and Margaret. The costumes help the audience keep these three characters apart visually, but Brownwell’s talent at accents and personalities make the separation of these characters convincing. However, some of the most impressive character swaps are done with ease by Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson, who play Man #1 and Man #2 respectively. In a nutshell, these two actors play every other ensemble character written into the script, including minor female characters and obstacles in a swamp. Watching Hissom and Parkinson make swaps on stage, in the middle of dialogue scenes, was both hilarious and amazing. And, to be honest, seeing them turn up on stage dressed as women, but still wearing the male socks, shoes, and garters, made it that much more entertaining.
The 39 Steps is a show that comedy lovers will not want to miss. If nothing else, it allows you to fully escape from the realities of the day-to-day and truly enjoy a night at the theatre.