“The 39 Steps” is ‘LOL’ entertainment

As the house lights dimmed at ASU Gammage in Tempe last night, a single spot shown down upon a leather chair occupied by a chap who seemed an odd mix of self-loving and self-loathing.

He began by bemoaning his boredom, realizing soon enough that what he really felt was tragically tired. So he wondered—what to do in such a situation?

I’d been wondering the same thing myself just an hour or so before, when faced with the decision of whether or not to drag myself out for a night of theater after a day that left me feeling as though I’d been dragged behind a fast-moving truck.

The gentleman in the chair decided he needed to do something mindless, so naturally he opted for a night at the theater. The audience roared at this, the first in a fast-paced series of quips offered up by a parade of colorful characters.

But I knew where he was coming from.

I can’t say that I felt especially eager to see a show last night. Truthfully, I was operating more in housework avoidance mode than theater appreciation mode. And so I bid farewell to my dust bunnies…

I’d heard that “The 39 Steps” was a sort of homage to Hitchcock with a “Spamelot” spin.

That didn’t help.

Other than the shower scene in “Psycho” and the avian attack scenes in “The Birds,” I’m not that familiar with Hitchcock’s work. And the rhythm and ruse of Monty Python’s humor has always escaped me.

My husband gets it. My kids get it. But not me, I’m afraid.

There was really no logical reason for me to have enjoyed last night’s opening of “The 39 Steps” at ASU Gammage—but I did.

I enjoyed it a great deal.

I caught the more obvious references to Hitchcock movie titles like “Rear Window” and “Strangers on a Train”—but learned during a “talk back” with the cast held after the show that there were several other references that I missed.

A teenage boy sitting front and center for the talkback—during which the play’s four actors and one of two understudies sat on the edge of the stage—rattled off quite a few more.

Couple that with the cast member who spent the entire 20 or so minutes in a seated yoga pose I can only approximate for about a minute as something akin to “crisscross applesauce” and you can imagine how terribly fit I felt both mentally and physically at that point.

But no matter—the evening had been a success. I’d replaced drudgery and dust bunnies with follies and funnies.

My children will be pleased to know that I developed a taste for watching others finesse the fine art of slapstick—without having to try it myself in the company of family and friends.


Photo credit: Craig Schwartz, 2009

Note: “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” runs through Sunday, April 25, at ASU Gammage. It’s fun for all ages, enjoyable to those who know their Hitchcock as well as those who don’t, and worthy of the many hearty laughs it garnered on opening night.

Coming up: Musings on the Musical Instrument Museum—opening in just three days! For a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the museum, watch RAK on Channel 12.


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