If you like Alfred Hitchcock films, you won't want to miss Pacific Repertory Theatre's newest opening.
But even if you've never seen "Psycho" before, and "North by Northwest" is something you've only heard about in relation to a compass, you should still get a kick out of the theatrics and humor in "The 39 Steps."
The show opens Saturday, with two preview performances on Thursday and Friday at the Golden Bough Theatre in Carmel.
Directed by PacRep founder Stephen Moorer, the production stars guest equity actor Cassidy Brown, with all the female characters played by equity actress Rebecca Dines.
PacRep resident actors Tim Hart and Michael D Jacobs will be playing all the other multiple roles that make up this production. Concurrently, Brown, Dines and Hart are also performing in repertory in PacRep's production of "God of Carnage."
More than a simple stage adaptation of the Hitchcock film by the same name, "The 39 Steps" is a humorous homage to Hitchcock's work.
While the play encapsulates plot points from the serious espionage movie, the entire cast is played by only four actors — making a comical scenario that includes quick costume changes, melodramatic chase scenes and actors playing more than one character at the same time. Along the way, Hitchcock aficionados will be rewarded by allusions to other well-known Hitchcock films.
"It's classic hero-damsel-villain stuff that you get in great old movies, especially Hitchcock
Although the play has the shadowy element of a Hitchcock classic, Brown said that viewers should not expect to see the film "The 39 Steps" on stage.
"It's a wonderful send-up of that film and other Hitchcock films," he said, "but It's like a Hitchcock film that's drunk. Hitchcock films are carefully sculpted; this is much more silly and ridiculous. It's like a vaudeville homage to Hitchcock."
The humor and melodrama of this production are two aspects that lend themselves to creating a wider audience appeal than for strictly classic cinema buffs.
"I've worked on plays adapted from movies before, like 'Johnny Guitar,'" said Moorer. "It's important from the beginning that if you've never seen the film, it can't be a deterrent. It's not about being a Hitchcock fan; this play should attract everybody because it's just good fun."
In fact, neither Moorer nor Brown identify themselves as Hitchcock fans. Though they're both familiar with Hitchcock's work, and each recounts enjoying the Hitchcock films that they've seen, it wasn't the fact that this is a tribute to the classic film master that they were attracted to the production.
"It was the sheer theatricality of it," said Moorer, explaining that he was lured by "the conceit of having four actors play dozens of roles without the benefit of huge sets and giant furniture pieces. It's really about the actors' abilities to be chameleons."
In addition to the versatile acting, PacRep has also enhanced the production by the Golden Bough's new revolving stage — something that Moorer said has come in handy for the many chase scenes that are included in the plot.
"When the chase scene gets going and they're on the train, wind whipping by, we turn on the double-revolve," said Moorer. "The actors are jumping from furniture piece to furniture piece. But it's still just four actors and a small assortment of furniture. The audience gets to use their imagination."
To help with the imaginative component, the production also makes use of projected images on stage, both video clips as well as still shots, evoking the feeling of a classic Hitchcock film.
Ultimately, the main threads that this play shares with the movie are the fully realized characters, said Moorer. "The characters and storyline are well-developed, easy to follow, and have clear elements in terms of heros, villains and damsels."
He added, "Hitchcock films are really compelling in that way. He had photography, whereas we have theatricality, lighting and multimedia."
Lily Dayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. GO!
·What: Pacific Repertory Theatre presents "The 39 Steps"
·Where: Golden Bough Playhouse, Monte Verde Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues, Carmel
·When: Previews at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday-Friday, June 21-22; opens at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 23; continues at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays through July 15
·Tickets: General admission $30-$35 (with discounts for seniors, children, students, teachers, military and preview performances) at the Golden Bough Box Office, Carmel (Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.), 622-0100 or www.pacrep.org; 2012 Season FlexPasses available