‘The 39 Steps’ at Sandy Spring Theatre Group

In partnership with Sandy Spring Theatre Group, Arts on the Green presents Patrick Barlow’s hilarious award-winning homage to the famous Alfred Hitchcock’s film The 39 Steps [and some of his other classic movies], directed by Karen Petersen.

Four brave actors-really Energizer Bunnies-hop all over the place while successfully-and often hysterically-playing over 150 zany characters.

5419247I will be totally honest – I love this show. I have seen it over a dozen times in NYC, in Philly, and in some local venues in the past two years. This is a manic and crazy show that puts four actors through boot camp, and I have always laughed myself silly while watching it. And being a lover of Hitchcock films-this is a smorgasboard of fun for me. It’s like a good I Love Lucy episode-you’ve seen it a hundred times but you keep laughing at the same jokes.

So let’s talk about what’s very good about this production:

This cast is incredibly silly, and so hard-working. So let’s introduce them to you so they can take a bow:

John Van Eck is Richard Hannay – the ‘victim’ who is clever and always so optimistic-even though he’s on the run and everyone is after this poor guy’s hide!

Olivia Haller is Annabella Schmidt, Margaret, and Pamela. All are pretty, overly assertive, and sexy. And dangerous!

And two of the hardest working guys and funnest guys and gals I have seen on the stage – the two Clowns-Stephen Swift and Chris Penick. These guys will need a vacation after this run.

And I will only give away one gag: Stephen and Chris perform a hat-switching scene that is a riot. It’s worth the price of admission to just see them pull this one off and on and off  and on…

So to the cast: Bravo!! Take 150 bows!

I have seen The 39 Steps performed on smaller stages than even the wonderfully intimate Arts Barn stage (I love watching shows here) and I have even seen the show performed with just four crates. But here, Sandy Doherty. Karen Petersen, and Tony Pisarra’s set is over-stuffed with too many big pieces of furniture which limits the necessary space the cast needs to run around in without bumping into a chair or the bed, or each other. And there are too many slow moving scene changes and moving of furniture [which looked quite heavy that my fused lower back was feeling their pain] that too many times brought the show at times to a sudden halt. The momentum built up by the well-earned laughs, guffaws, and giggles and applause of the previous scene were too soon forgotten. This a farce that depends on one thing to succeed fast pacing. The 39 Steps works best when it’s a roller coaster of Hitchcockian plots and twists and jokes and fear and when the cast can move around freely. My suggestion: less furniture.

The Sandy Spring Theatre Group is one heck of a theatre company and I am confident that changes are a-comin’ for this weekend’s upcoming shows that will make this production even funnier and more enjoyable.

Kudos to Sandy Eggleston’s and Melissa Esposito ‘s classy and glittery costumes, and to Ms Esposito’s fine make-up and wigs, Joseph Connors’ uplifting fog effects and lighting, and Ken Kemp’s clear sound design which helped to move us along to the different venues.

My significant other-who had never seen the show-and I-laughed a lot and enjoyed the cast’s antics. And I highly recommend that you come and laugh along, with, and at, this talented cast. You’ll giggle often and shake your head and you may want to pop in North by Northwest, Vertigo, or even The 39 Steps into your DVD machine when you get home, or at least download it from Netflix for a later viewing.

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The 39 Steps plays through January 25, 2015 at Sandy Spring Theatre Group performing at The Arts Barn- 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg. MD. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394, or buy them at the door, or online.

This theater is recommending that the show is appropriate for ages 15 and older.

RATING: FOUR-STARS110.gif for the cast performances and for the many laughs you will have watching them perform.

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.


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