Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cleveland Play House: (Hitchcock's) The 39 Steps

Every once in a while a play will come along that completely changes your outlook on life. This is not that play. The 39 Steps is a hell of a lot funnier than that play.

I've been looking for an excuse to use "a riotous romp" for a while, yet it seems a disservice to apply a such a menial tag to this: I laughed so hard that I cried. Twice.

The 39 steps -- where four actors (Joe Foust, Rob Johansen, Sarah Nealis, Nick Sandys) create a nearly limitless variety of characters. Sight gags run rampant, word play is plentiful, theatrical references are thoroughly sprinkled throughout. The stage is free from distraction with props sliding, flying, being dragged, pushed, pulled, carried, or tumbled into position as needed and disappearing just as quickly and just as oddly. It is one of the few times I can recall contributing to spontaneous mid-scene applause.

The 39 Steps is truly a "you have to be there to get it" show: I couldn't possibly do justice to try describing a favorite scene, assuming I could identify a favorite scene. If I have one complaint about the evening it is that the theater was too cold*. Well, and the show ended a little too quickly.

It seems that there may be generational appeal, though: If anyone has labeled you an "Old Fogey" or the like, this show may not be for you: Two older women in my row decided to leave during intermission because it "wasn't all that funny" and--though hardly an accurate judge of age--the laughter had a distinctly sub-50 tinge to it.

Of course I'd be remiss to not mention the Cleveland Play House's "Handcuffed for Half Price" promotion: If you show up at the box office handcuffed to your date (well, handcuffed to someone who will become your date) you can purchase tickets for half price. I seriously considered handcuffing myself to a random (attractive) stranger, but on further consideration that seemed like it would make a bad first impression, and a good case for assault charges. As it stands it was hard enough to get a ticket for one for the sold-out house.

Go. See. This. Show.


*-Seriously, though, in a heavy-ish sport coat**, dress shirt, and undershirt I was still on the chilled side. I'm never cold with that combination.
**- My normal play going jacket is still in the care of my dry cleaners after my Pandemonium Bridge Building Exercise.

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