The comic quick-change play, a version of Hitchcock’s movie “The 39 Steps” opened this weekend at the Darien Arts Center (now rechristened the Darien Arts Center Stage). The play, directed by Donna Wyant and starring six multitalented actors playing nearly 150 roles is a burlesque of that venerable spy thriller, with one actor (David Victor) playing the hero, Richard Hannay and the other five assuming dozens of roles in what seemed to be hundreds of costumes (by Kathleen Sauer) and wigs.
Most of the men’s roles are taken by P J Morello and Vic Terenzio as Clown 1 and Clown 2, but Wyant has split out several parts for Geoffrey Gilbert because of the limited technical facilities to carry out so many 15 second costume changes. For similar reasons, while Melisssa Schleier plays Annabella Schmidt and Margaret, Linda Gilmore takes on the role of Pamela.
The set by Kathy Alexander is made of a number of moveable doors, windows and boxes that the actors and 3 crew members move about to suggest the 133 different scenes in the show. In addition Wyant uses the crew to suggest crowds in a number of the chase scenes.
The show makes winking reference to any number of other Hitchcock films(“you can escape through this Rear Window) as well as being full of outrageous puns and outright silliness, such as when Hannay, handcuffed to Pamela, has to help her removed her soaked stockings.
Particularly clever was the parade (see slide show) that Hannay hides in, made up of cast and crew carrying rods of dummies on their shoulders.
This fast-paced piece of silliness was great fun to watch and the sold-out audience responded enthusiastically. “The 39 Steps” runs today (Sunday, March 10) and for the next two weekends, through March 23. Get your tickets early.