my new thing is walking down to portland center stage for the weekend matinée, it’s a bit easier to get rush tickets that way. this saturday i was the only one in the rush line, so i easily got into the sold out the 39 steps. i have never seen the 1935 movie version and purposefully avoided the recent pbs version so that i wouldn’t know the twists. this production opened a week ago and has been getting good reviews. the staged version of the alfred hitchcock classic is a farcical take on the movie, with a wit often compared to monty python. i’m generally not a fan of that kind of humor, so i went in a little skeptical. for good reason i have a “portland center stage can do not wrong” attitude, i have faith in them.
the 39 steps is a great production. i wish that i liked that pythony sense of humor. i did laugh, just nowhere near as much as the rest of the crowd. i think that kind of comedy tries too hard, i like it subtle. i was able to look past the gags to see the quality of the performance. the four actors had a great sense of timing, and were up for anything. the two leads lack a little chemistry, but make up for it with gobs of charm. the other two actors portrayed dozens of characters, sometimes changing “seamlessly” mid scene. if you see it, you’ll understand the quotes. i enjoyed the hitchcock references throughout the play, they were very clever. i’ve come to expect some creative and interesting staging from pcs, they do wonders with a minimal sets. for the 39 steps cargo crates turn into inns and doors on wheels proved to be quite versatile. the highlight for me were the shadow puppet transitions, it’s amazing what can be done with shadow puppets.
the 39 steps is certainly not going to be play of the year. that doesn’t mean it’s not a crackerjack of a production worth seeing.