By: Paulanne Simmons
Since 39 Steps crossed the Atlantic to premiere at Boston University Theater
in 2007, the comedy/melodrama has been produced both on Broadway (Roundabout
Theatre at American American Airlines Theatre/Cort Theatre, Helen Hayes Theatre) and off-Broadway (New World Stages and Union Square Theatre)Kayla Ryan Walsh, Alister Austin, Amanda Baxter, Whit Leyenberger
In fact Patrick Barlow’s spoof of the1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock has become something of an institution.
However, despite its peregrinations, the play retains much of its small-scale, village
hall beginnings in North England. Which is why it does so well in its latest
revival at the Gallery Players in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where it is ably
directed by Mark Gallagher.
The play calls for an ensemble of four, with one actor playing Richard Hannay, the
bumbling hero who finds himself reluctantly embroiled in international
intrigue, another playing the women in his life and the two remaining actors
taking the role of every other character (constables, inn keepers, spies, music
hall performers). Much of its success relies on the synergy this ensemble
Happily, the Gallery Players ensemble is energetic, funny and perfectly foolish at all
the right times. Alister Austin as Hannay alternates masterfully between
straight man and sad sack clown. Amanda Baxter is a great vamp, in black or
blonde wig. As for the jack-of-all-trades actors, Whit Leyenberger and Karla
Ryan Walsh, one can only marvel at their dexterity and versatility.
All these actors run in place, climb through window frames, move doors, haul trunks
and push doors around the stage. One almost expects the stage hands union to
complain. But it’s all part of the fun, especially when props are lost and
sound cues are missed .
All the misfortunes the production encounters are emphasized by the intimacy of the
Gallery Players’ theater space. The audience does not miss a raised eyebrow or
a muttered threat. When the actors walk down the center aisle to ascend the
stage, the audience feels very much a part of the action. And when the lights
go out, the audience truly feels left in the dark.
Although Barlow makes ample reference to various Hitchcock films and a few others that deal in intrigue, it is not necessary to get all the allusions to enjoy the
show. But a high tolerance if not a love of pratfalls is definitely required.
39 Steps runs through Nov. 13 at Gallery Players,199 14th St, Brooklyn, www.galleryplayers.com
or (212) 352-3101. Photos: Bella Muccari
Alister Austin, Kayla Ryan Walsh
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Kayla Ryan Walsh, Whit Leyenberger, Alister Austin