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June 4, 2010

A REVIEW – Hippodrome’s “39 Steps”

Roy Meachum

Let me prepare you for the exciting happenings taking place on-stage at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre. “The 39 Steps” is nothing like anything I’d ever seen.


Starting with the base of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1935 flick, the show stutters, starts, snaps; it glides and gears into a controlled out-of control. Patrick Barlow gets the chief blame for converting the earlier English spy novel as adapted for the film into a work of absolute madness, relieved by occasional sobriety, which makes things worse, if you catch my drift.


Director Maria Aitken grabs the credit for much of set pieces that flow through the evening like magnificently hammy choreography. At one time one actor talks to himself, flaunting his two personalities by changing sides to reveal their costumes. If you can follow that, don’t bother to tell me.


The nonsense has been raging along in blissfully Blighty for the past 14 years, playing currently at London West End’s Criterion Theatre – with no likely end in sight.


Claire Brownell plays all the distaff parts in a cast that includes three other actors. Ted Deasy essays the role assigned to Robert Donat in the movie. To Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson fall the wig and hat changes, alteration of genders, etc., that skid the evening along to its rollicking close.


With the announced intention of preparing readers for the crafted lunacy on Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre, I grade myself as failing. But then there’s no way to communicate how delightfully antic the production of “The 39 Steps” comes across. You should see for yourself.


But hurry. The whole delicious shebang departs a week from Sunday, headed someplace out of town where the assorted mess and downright English guffaws will delight another American audience.


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