Comical Thrills from New Village Arts Theatre

Erica Marie Weisz and Dallas McLaughliln (photos courtesy of Daren Scott).

Erica Marie Weisz and Dallas McLaughlin (photos courtesy of Daren Scott).

Alfred Hitchcock is often considered the “master of suspense.” In addition to thrills, his movies are often full of unexpected humor to balance out tension.

One of Hitchcock’s classic movies that features intensity and witty dialogue is “The 39 Steps.” Patrick Barlow’s theatrical adaptation, which is based on the film and original novel by John Buchan, takes out the drama and cranks up the comedy to high levels. New Village Arts Theatre’s production keeps the laughs coming with out of the box direction from Dr. AJ Knox and hilarious performances.

Opening in 1930’s England, a bored bachelor, Hannay (Dallas Mclaughlin), spends an evening at a London music hall. After a gunshot goes off, he finds himself trying to protect a spy, Annabella (Erica Marie Weisz), from assassins who come to the property where his home is located.

Unfortunately, Annabella is quickly murdered. Framed and on the run, Hannay tries to finish her mission, which involves a trip to Scotland and a mysterious phrase, “the 39 steps.”

Barlow uses dialogue from Charles Bennett and Ian Hay’s original screenplay and additional prose that helps flesh out the character of Hannay. Compared to the flick, the Canadian has more of an arc as the sardonic hero becomes an empathetic and caring person.

You do not need to see the 1930’s adventure to follow the events onstage. For the most part, the plot is straightforward and easy to follow, with plenty of room for slapstick jokes and one-liners.

Knox incorporates Frank Seed’s set, Grace Wong’s costumes, Russell Chow’s lighting, and McKenna Foote’s props to visually pay tribute to the big screen incarnation, while still presenting a version that is comical and absurd. Knox’s audio adds to the fun, especially when using Bernard Hermann’s theme to “North by Northwest” and “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down,” which is often known as the theme from “Looney Tunes.”

McLaughlin anchors the production humorously playing the equally sharp and irritated Hannay, while Weisz is just as humorous as Annabella, a helpful farmer’s wife, Margaret, and Hannay’s eventual accomplice, Pamela.

Reden Magtira and Kenny Bordieri.

Reden Magtira and Kenny Bordieri.

Rounding out the cast are Reden Magtira and Kenny Bordieri as clowns. Portraying all the other roles, the duo stands out as a variety of characters from helpful allies to deadly antagonists.

A section that gets a little too convoluted in both the movie and the show is the climax when Hannay finally learns the truth about Annabella’s mission. Information is explained in such a quick way, that it can be hard to understand the meaning behind the assignment.

Luckily, the ending still works, because some of the most hysterical moments occur in the last few minutes of the staging.

Moving at a fast pace and consistently comedic, The 39 Steps is a terrifically funny evening of theatre. Knox and his cast and crew all contribute to an affectionate and gleefully silly parody at the Carlsbad venue.

View the program online.

Show times are Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m, Fridays at 7:30 p.m, Saturdays at 2:00 p.m.

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New Village Arts Theatre
2787 State St, Carlsbad CA 92008 USA Work Phone: 760.433.3245 Website: New Village Arts Theatre website
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