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Hitchcock parody '39 Steps' is laugh-out-loud fun in Rolling Hills Estates

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Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps at the Norris Theatre

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Do you love a good mystery and parody as well? Alfred Hitchcock purists might not approve, but Simon Corble and Norby Dimon's "Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps" is a crowd pleaser. The Norris Center for the Performing Arts production--only nine performances--features a cast of four actors who have dead on comic timing and director Ken Parks maximizes every minute of the hilarity.

If you recall, the original 1935 movie was about a man accused of murder who must outrun the police while attempting to save his country from some nasty spies. And, of course, since it's Hitchcock, there's a beautiful blonde woman involved. All that's still in the production as well as some references to famous cinematic scenes, but it's all played as a play within a play where the actors and the backstage production crew don't always get their cues. Jeffry Cannata stars are the intrepid falsely accused Richard Hannay. Karen Jean Olds gets to be the frightened spy Annabella for whose murder Hannay is framed. Olds also gets to be Pamela, the blonde woman who eventually believes Hannay's story and helps him and the poor, much younger wife of a crofter.
Louis Lotorto Kenny Landmon are Clown 1 and Clown 2, which means they get assigned to play many different roles, male and female. That's daunting, but not necessarily thankless work because they get most of the laughs.

Expect physical humor and double entendres that are tame enough that you can bring a well-behaved child of 10 or so.

I originally saw "The 39 Steps" at the Ahmanson in 2010. In some cases, bigger is better, but in the case of "The 39 Steps" the cozy Norris Theatre makes the production more intimate and for this kind of production which parodies small and somewhat inept stage productions, that makes for a better theatrical experience.

Alfred Hitchcock's movie was based on John Buchan's 1915 novel of the same name. The original concept for this version of the story was made by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon and it premiered in 1995 before a small audience in North Yorkshire. Patrick Barlow made further revisions in 2005. The production made it to Broadway's Roundabout Theatre in 2008. The play won a 2007 Olivier Award for Best Comedy and the Roundabout Broadway production won Tony Awards for Best Lighting Design and Best Sound although it was nominated for Best Play, Best Direction, Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design.

This production at the Norris Center is exceptional. Hitchcock fans with a sense of humor will love this and get all the Hitchcock references, while fans of murder mysteries and spy thrillers can enjoy this humorous romp for the gentle fun it pokes at various cinematic traditions.

"Alfred Hitchockc's The 39 Steps" opened on 24 January (Friday) and runs until 9 February. I understand that this production then heads to Palm Springs. Don't miss it. The Norris Theatre is located in the South Bay area of Los Angeles at 27570 Norris Center Drive, Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274. (310) 544-0403 or visit the Norris Theatre website.

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