MONMOUTH — With a cast of four “ridiculously talented actors” in roughly 150 roles, the Monmouth Community Players’ production of “The 39 Steps” is a hilarious roller-coaster ride from beginning to end.

That’s how Adam P. Blais describes the comedy opening Friday, April 14, at Cumston Hall.
It’s a “mad and zany spoof of an old Alfred Hitchcock film,” Blais said. The play moves at a breakneck pace with nonstop laughs and many quick costume changes. The action includes “an on-stage plane crash, handcuffs, missing fingers, and some good old-fashioned romance.”
“The 39 Steps” borrows much of the manic style of British television’s “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
Blais is the only member of the small cast who plays a single role. He portrays Richard Hannay, a man in London who tries to help a counterespionage agent. When the agent is killed and Hannay stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information.
That’s the basic melodramatic plot of Hitchcock’s 1935 film, but it’s played for laughs in this British stage version. It opened in 2005 and ran for nine years, making it the fifth-longest-running play in London’s West End theater history.
Karen Lipovsky plays three roles in the Monmouth production. They are ladies who are responsible for Hannay’s romantic entaglements.
Bart Shattuck and Sean Wallace are the actors who play two clowns and handle all of the other roles. That includes heroes, villains, men, women, children and even the occasional inanimate object. This often requires lightning-fast costume changes and occasionally they play multiple characters at once.
Blais said this show makes use of every bit of stage space, as well as requiring some imaginative staging, costuming, props and technology. It should be noted that this production utilizes strobe lights, gunshots and loud noises.
In Hitchcock’s films the famous director often stepped in front of the camera for quick scenes such as a man stepping onto a bus. It was a theatrical device unrelated to the plot known as a “MacGuffin,” and the audience at Monmouth will enjoy something similar. The script is full of allusions to and puns on the titles of other Alfred Hitchcock films, including “Strangers on a Train,” “Rear Window,” “Psycho,” “Vertigo” and “North by Northwest.”
Paul G. Caron is piano accompanist, and the score is improvised by Caron as the play progresses.
Performances of “The 39 Steps” take place in the opera house of historic Cumston Hall, 796 Main St., Monmouth.
Show dates and times are April 15, 16, 22, and 23 , at 7:30 p.m. and April 17, and 24, at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for students, and may be purchased in advance online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2105744, by phone at 1-800-838-3006, or at the door via cash or personal check.


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