Review by Danny Gaisin
“The 39 steps”…neither an Al-Anon doctrine nor a Jenny Craig™ weight reduction programme. Nope- a 1930’s espionage/spy novel Lord Tweedsmuir, (our 15th Governor General) written under his given name – John Buchan. Protagonist Richard Hannay was a cross between Indiana Jones & James Bond. However, Stage West & director Dayna Tekatch’s incarnation is pure spoof, pure delight, pure entertainment.
Photo courtesy of Fred Loek; Miss’a News
Oddity. This morning while driving to my day job, began recalling some of the more outrageous visual shticks and started giggling. The missed clues; mis-cues and facial asides are pure corn & ham. However, Tekatch’s talented quartet never crosses the line thus emulating the ingenuity that made Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton & those Keystone Kops such icons. She has clearly allowed her charges to incorporate some of their own comedic instincts and the whole thing works. Obviously-scripted props that don’t function until re-cued are only outdone by the asides the cast somehow manage to express straight-faced. That, dear readers, is the ultimate sign of professionals.
The lead character is portrayed by Peter Mikhail and his Hannay is presented almost dramatically. He expresses some of the most outrageous in-joke statements as though reading the Gospel. There are a few scenes in which Hannay is in peril while the radio is publishing his description. His facial machinations and advantageous profile presentation are pants-wetters! The female protagonists are Martha Farrell and the lady is convincing in all of her roles. When she tells Hannay “zat he ist now involvededed”, we kept trying to emulate her Germanic pronunciations, albeit while guffawing. She is one talented comedienne.
The remaining dozen or so roles are played by Jamie Mac & Michael Lamport. This duo’s contribution to the storyline is bestowed in vignettes and an amazing gamut of facial expressions. They also give us some of the more atrocious prop-failing moments and underscore them with acrobatic pratfalls. Lamport is a drooling codger in one scene and I’d swear he’s a dead ringer for the ancient degenerate on ‘Family Guy’!
The storyline is presented as a collage of ‘Fringe-type’ vignettes and bears only a slight resemblance to the original story. But, the result is hilarious entertainment. Tekatch and company have a sure winner and quite probably an O.A.R. Top Ten candidate for 2012. Truth be known, I’d love to see it again. Observing last night’s audience, I’ll bet all would agree.
The 39 Steps runs until July 1st.
Another reason to visit STAGE WEST is the buffet. Since we were there in February for ‘All Shook Up’ there’s been a change in the kitchen. New executive chef Robert Vanmeer, acknowledging the diversity of his staff, has encouraged them to bring in some of their own ethnic tastes and recipes. We were especially taken with the Indian mango chicken that was created by sou-chef Vinny Kumar; and a Mediterranean brisket with sundried tomatoes & olives. The latter was contributed by Lishy Elad. The salads are delicious, creative and artistically presented. Another innovation… not only is the popular roast beef still offered; but lamb is now also available. As usual, the staff’s warm hospitality overseen by Brian is non-pareil.