Thursday, June 15, through Sunday, June 25
Timber Lake Playhouse, 8215 Black Oak Road, Mt. Carroll IL
Winner of two 2008 Tony Awards and the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy of 2007, author Patrick Barlow's slapstick thriller The 39 Steps enjoys a June 15 through 25 run at Mt. Carroll's Timber Lake Playhouse, the show's creative team and four-person cast sure to demonstrate why the New York Times called this Alfred Hitchcock celebration/spoof an “indomitably funny” comedy of “virtuosic clowning.”
Based on John Buchan's 1915 novel that was adapted into Hitchcock's 1935 film classic, The 39 Steps opens with mild-mannered Richard Hannay at a London theatre when a fight breaks out and a shot is fired. In the ensuing panic, he finds himself holding a frightened Annabella Schmidt, who talks him into taking her back to his flat. There, she tells him that she is a spy being chased by assassins out to kill her. She also claims to have uncovered a plot to steal vital British military secrets, implemented by a man who is the head of the espionage organization “The 39 Steps.” The next day, however, Hannay wakes up to find the woman dead, and what follows, in Barlow's imagining, is pure slapstick hilarity in which the entirety of Hitchcock's movie is performed by a whirlwind cast of four. Boasting an on-stage plane crash, handcuffs, missing fingers, and good-old-fashioned romance, The 39 Steps' serious spy story is played mainly for laughs in Barlow's theatrical adaptation, with his script full of allusions to (and puns on the titles of) other Alfred Hitchcock films including Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo, and North by Northwest.
Barstow's play premiered the U.S. at the Boston University Theatre, by the Huntington Theatre Company, in the fall of 2007, and opened on Broadway in a Roundabout Theatre production at the American Airlines Theatre the following January. The show's initial run concluded on March 29, after which The 39 Steps transferred to the Cort Theatre that April, and then to the Helen Hayes Theatre in January of 2009. All told, the show's New York engagement lasted 771 performances, making it, according to Playbill, the longest-running Broadway play in seven years. After receiving the 2008 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience and Outstanding Lighting Design, The 39 Steps won two Tony Awards, for Best Lighting Design in a Play and Best Sound Design. It was also nominated for four additional Tonys: Best Play, Best Direction of a Play for Maria Aitken, Best Scenic Design of a Play, and Best Costume Design of a Play.
Timber Lake's production of The 39 Steps is directed and choreographed by the venue's former artistic director James Beaudry, presently the Assistant Professor of Music Theatre for the University at Buffalo. He lists his favorite Timber Lake shows as Evita, Titanic, Big Fish, Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Spamalot, Footloose 42nd Street, and Singin' in the Rain. The production features scenic design by Timber Lake alumn Spencer Gjerde, lighting design by Dylan Carter, costume design by Claire Sabaj, props design by Annabell Sapp and sound design by Joe Cave. Chelsey Steinmetz will return as production stage manager, and the cast features Jacob Smith, Elizabeth Fenning, Cody Jolly, and Matt Webb. “We have had a lot of requests from patrons to produce comedies, dramas and mysteries,” said Timber Lake's executive director Dan Danielowski. “The 39 Steps combines all three of these genres into one show.”
The 39 Steps runs at the Mt. Carroll theatre June 15 through 25, with scheduled performances at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Admission is $25-35, and more information and tickets are available by calling (815)244-2035 and visiting TimberLakePlayhouse.org.