Based on the 1935 Hitchcock film of the same title, The 39 Steps chronicles the adventures of Richard Hannay, an innocent man who, like so many other Hitchcock men, is accidentally caught up in a high-stakes international spy game. And yet the play is not a thriller. Well, not first and foremost. Mostly, it is a light-hearted comedy in which four actors play more roles than I can count.
The actors clearly have their rhythm down. The piece strikes the right tempo—a sprightly allegretto—and is able to maintain it fairly consistently until the very end. If it gets slow, which occasionally does happen, it never stays slow for long. The actors are hams (think Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream), but the play is a play for hams.
Again, this is not a thriller—this is a parody of a thriller. You will not be particularly scared. You will not cry, well, unless you have a habit of crying when watching a comedy. You will perhaps laugh, however. No, scratch that: you will definitely laugh.
*somebody interested in people from England.
HOW TO SEE THE SHOW: $26.50 student rush • Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 W. 44th St.