The 39 Steps at Actor’s Theater of Charlotte
Posted on 18 Sep 2010 by Mitch Metz
photos: Aphrodite Photography
Get involved in The 39 Steps
Actor’s Theater of Charlotte hitched their trailers to the pick-ups, and dragged them back to Texas, leaving behind nothing more than a few empty Pabst Blue Ribbon cans and a tattered Snugli… but wait, what is that on the horizon? OMG, it’s an amazingly hysterical comedy disguised as a murder mystery! The 39 Steps (27 more than I’m used to) hits the intimate stage with energy, talent, and a slew of laughs. So, now that Mary Poppins has lifted her umbrella high, and floated out of town, come on over to 650 E. Stonewall for a whole lot of fun!
I’ll skip most of the background from the show because, quite frankly, I’m not one to regurgitate Wikipedia, and besides, this performance stands as a production of it’s own. Sure, it’s cool to know that it’s a Hitchcock deal, and that alone will sell tickets, but for this theater patron, it was all about grabbing the little woman, getting a pair of tickets, and being entertained for a few hours. Oh yeah, they did that, and then some.
We’re greeted by what appears to be an unfinished stage, but things come to life as Richard Hannay (Dave Blamy) starts to tell us his story. As some of you theater fans may remember, Dave did a remarkable job as Edward in Embraceable me, and I’ll admit, it took me a scene or two to erase that character from my memory. Richard somehow gets wrapped up in a murder mystery, and unlike the rest of the cast, can simply be himself for the entire show. Dave was solid as the innocent but presumed guilty straight man of the night. Comedic timing and slapstick play a substantial roll, and the hard work he put into the character really came through on stage. If nothing else, seeing how he deals with a dead woman lying across him while seated in his chair, will leave you holding your sides from laughter. I mean, come on now, who hasn’t been sitting there, trapped under a freshly murdered babe, thinking to themselves… “ummm, okay, now what?”.
The play moves quickly from scene to scene, very quickly. The props are simple yet effective when coupled with the subtle movements from the cast. This is really a show about timing. Director Chip Decker took the Broadway show and condensed it to fit the theater perfectly, without losing one drop of entertainment. Chip cast the most wonderful actors, led them from zero to 60 in only three weeks, and put an whole lot of theater goodness out on the stage. If ever a show screamed “great director”, this is the one! Bravo, Mr. Decker, bravo!!!
Getting back to the story, our hero Richard flees when it appears he is going to be hunted down for murdering our favorite German spy, Annabella (Maret Decker Seitz). Yes, you remember Maret from Five Course Love. Unfortunately, we don’t get to hear her singing voice here, but wow, once again, she proves beyond any doubt that we will only be seeing this Davidson grad for a short time. Besides a dead and rigid Annabella, Maret gives us two other characters, most notably, love interest Pamela who narcs on poor Richard not once but twice. In a show built on timing, this sweet young actress delivers each and every line perfectly… no, better than that… in my mind, i sensed what should have been the perfect time to deliver the next comedic line, and she’s better… Maret commands the stage with the presence of an experienced veteran. It won’t be long, and you’ll be seeing her on the big stage, in movies, or even on your boob tube (i know, they don’t have tubes any more, just go with it, okay?) and you’ll snobbily (no way that’s a real word) tell your friends “Oh, Maret, oh yes, I saw her when she was just getting started here in Charlotte”. From German agent (minus boots and riding crop) to fish dishing Scott to mistrusting blond (with provocative stocking scene), The 39 Steps are way more fun with this petite star guiding the way. All this praise, just because she tried to take a bite out of a sandwich as big as her head? Yep, some things, you just have to see to believe!
So, where were we? Oh, right, Richard and Pamela are somehow joined at the wrist by some would be good guys but really bad guys, as they run from the law. There’s an interesting ride in a car, a stay at an inn (complete with Murphy bed), window manipulation, and my personal favorite, entanglement in a fence. So who plays the other 100 roles on stage? Well, let me introduce you to Clown #1 and Clown #2 (I guess thing 1 and thing 2 were busy). Rory Dunn and Greg McGrath are… EVERYONE else (but not clowns)! Talk about timing… the genius of these two actors, with the writing and directing, bring everything together. There are so very many cues and details that are vital to the show. It’s shocking to see a simple Englishman one second, and suddenly, with the quick change of a hat and an accent, you have a whole new character. Rory and Greg were remarkable on this night, and helped us investigate the murder properly. From Mr. Memory to quite a few lady roles, Rory never shyed away from delivering a solid laugh, and Greg gave us someone to hate (the evil villain Professor Jordan) and love (a kind of creepy, kilt clad innkeeper). Near the end of the play, you’ll notice what appears to be a stunt double taking a fall for Greg… watch closely and see if you can notice! Speaking of that, we are also treated to Alfred Hitchcock’s trademark cameo appearance. How cool is that?
Yes, pure entertainment again at Actor’s Theater! The audience was a bit on the geriatric side the night I attended, but the roars of laughter spoke volumes. These people really know how to do it right. From general admission seating, to a great location and free parking, Actor’s Theater has become my absolute favorite place to see local talent here in Charlotte. Get your tickets NOW because they will sell out quickly, arrive early, and drop an extra fin in the envelope if you’ve got it… this is an outstanding organization, and yet again, a can’t-miss show!!! The 39 Steps, running now through October 2nd. Be there, have fun, get IN-VOL-VED!