John Buchan (aka Lord Tweedsmuir; Canada’s 15th G.G.) fabricated a plot back in 1915. The title refers to the stairs in a British nursing home, and coincidently, to the number of treads in a certain old (1916) Hamilton home on Gladstone Ave!
The play has evolved into a comedy based on that spy novel; Galahad Productions version, directed by Rob Woodcock, is a ‘campy’ adaptation based on a farce, constructed on that comedy and the result is a certified chortler.
Deliberately missed cues; hilarious asides; explanatory facial explanations; malfunctioning props and even amateurish décor bits are so infantile as to be side-splittingly funny. The talented cast of four, ridiculously portray the thirty-nine-ish characters that comprise the thirty-nine schteps (sic) of the title; as well as the 39 hilarities per act. This is one continual giggle.
The heroic, handsome and charming Richard Hannay (imagine James bond played by Inspector Clouseau) is Mark Llewellyn whose mobile face; Romanesque profile, and twinkling eyes are physically a perfect complement for the character. Being a talented actor with an instinctive sense of timing, he is impeccably suited for the role. I kept recalling Tom Selleck’s ‘magnum P.I.’ effective eyebrow-raising talent. Even when he telegraphs an obvious repartee, we still laugh at his delivery.
The other myriad characters are played by Vince Carlin; Chris Reid and Linda Spence. The latter plays some of the female roles; the rest is left with to a rather impressively robust Reid. Spence is credibly seductive as the thickly accented Gherman counter-schpy, ‘Annabella Schmidt’- who becomes the victim; then as the train-mate betrayer of our hero, & finally as ‘Pamela’, his mate. Reid is the performing ‘Mr. Memory’; he plays an Irish innkeeper’s wife; a cop; a killer; and then some of the secondary roles such as the girlfriend of the villain. Carlin portrays the enemy’s (read Kaiser Wilhelm II) espionage agent; a music hall M.C.; and an Irish landlord. His aged president of some organization whose mutteringly undecipherable speech is not only a showstopper; but an aide-mémoire that some comedies necessitate Depends™ to counteract an instinctive bladder release.
The stage props are blatantly inadequate but in the hands of the quartet and their director; add a measure of their own ludicrousness, thus enhancing the overall comedy. Unfortunately, “The 39 STEPS” is at the L.A.C.’s RBC Hall for only three performances. Too bad; it deserves a longer run and perhaps even a DVD… I’d have purchased a copy.