Western Herald – Review: Farmers Alley’s “39 Steps” uses small cast to comedic perfection

Review: Farmers Alley’s “39 Steps” uses small cast to comedic perfection

John Campbell
A&E Reporter

Farmers Alley Theatre is fusing Alfred Hitchcock with Monty Python with their production of “The 39 Steps,” continuing its near sold-out run

The four-person show is based on the 1935 Hitchcock movie of the same name, which was in turn based on the 1915 John Buchan novel.

Robbie Gay stars as the hero, Richard Hannay, an ordinary man who finds himself in the thick of a spy hunt when he encounters Annabella Schmidt (Laura Stuart Obenauf) after gun shots interrupt a show.

Obenauf also plays Margaret and Pamela, while Joe Aiello and Scott Burkell play Clown 1 and Clown 2 respectively. Aiello and Burkell portray a multitude of different characters throughout the production, and provide the show with much of its humor. At times, the two switch between characters during a scene simply by changing hats or putting on different clothing. These characters range from a man named Mr. Memory to police officers, while other roles require the actors to cross dress or perform as inanimate objects.

Gay provides much of the show’s vocal humor as well, with various memorable one-liners peppered throughout the show. Gay and Obenauf provide a few great slapstick moments as well. Aiello and Burkell steal the show, though. The randomness of the characters they play is arguably the show’s definitive aspect.

Costumes by Elaine Kauffman are amazing. The costume changes between Aiello and Burkell, to morph them into different characters, are distinct enough for us to know which characters they are playing, and hair and wigs work by Garrylee McCormick work fantastically in the same vein. Aiello and Burkell both change wigs for certain characters and they only adds to the comedy.

Director Brian Feehan has put on a show to be proud of. The slapstick inherent in “The 39 Steps” is done extremely well, as is the suspense in the spy story. The build-up to the climax will undoubtedly leave the audience wanting more.

Admission for “The 39 Steps” is drying up quickly. Tickets are currently available for April 27 at 2 p.m. (for $27) or April 28 at 7:30 p.m. (for $25), but more shows may be added should audience demand call for them. Tickets can be purchased at the Farmers Alley Theatre box office, online at www.farmersalleytheatre.com/current-season/the-39-steps or by phone at 269-343-2727.

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