39 Steps

A joyous Hitchcock classic
By Earl D. C. Bracamonte

Based on the beloved spy thriller by Scottish author John Buchan, and first brought to the screen in 1935 by Alfred Hitchcock, The 39 Steps is a timeless tale of action, intrigue, romance and suspense. This comic theatrical adaptation written by Patrick Barlow from Buchan's 1915 World War I espionage novel stars Michael Williams as Richard Hannay, an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary events.
“This play is action-driven that oftentimes we create the sets physically. Our challenge here as actors is not only on the physical acting but also on finding the mid-ground between comedy and the British upper lip without losing the humor and not sounding off,” intoned the multi-talented actor.
As the First World War looms, Hannay returns to London where he meets a person claiming to be a British spy. The same person is killed in Hannay's flat/apartment and he immediately finds himself on the run; burdened with the charge for her murder and the dangerous knowledge of her mission.
“When 'The 39 Steps' landed on my lap to direct, I was both ecstatic and challenged. Being a Hitchcock fan, I felt it my duty to not just stage a comedy but to bring the trademark of his filming unto the stage. After a month-long marathon of Hitchcock movies, I present this play not only as a Saturday night live version of his first hit but as a tribute to the master himself.
“In every scene, you will see not just 'The 39 Steps' but also all his other masterpieces of chase scenes, thrilling moments, mind-boggling plots and of course, love! - all neatly tied-up in a bag of plain old comedy. After all, according to Hitchcock, there is no real suspense without humor. I have a cast of four amazing actors who give life and laughter (lots of it) to all of his villains, foes, heroines and heroes. Hitchcock himself will be there somewhere so keep your eyes peeled. And if you happen to be clueless when it comes to Hitchcock, well don't fret. You're still going to have one hell of a laugh trip and maybe we'll make a Hitchcock fan out of you yet,” enthused director Ana Abad Santos, during an intimate media colloquy at Rep's rehearsal studio.
The play has a cast of four fearless actors playing over 140 roles in 100 minutes of fast-paced fun that often requires fast costume/prop changes and occassionally for them to play multiple characters at once. Co-stars Liza Infante-Robinson, Rem Zamora and Juliene Mendoza play every other character in the show: heroes, villains, men, women and performing stunts whilst changing accents. It is an interactive production wherein fanatics could spot the most Hitchcock moments within the play.
This play also marks Liza's return to the Philippine theatre scene after living in London for the past ten years while finishing her master's degree in business. Professionally, she is an investment banker and currently owns her own business called Two Tots; designing and manufacturing children's furniture and accessories.
“The Rep Arts Council read scripts and decide which to produce. It is our mission/vision to bring in the most current and/or recent shows to generate the most public interest. Like our Asian premiere of 'Peter Pan' towards the end of the year,” informed associate artistic director Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo.
You don't even have to be familiar with Hitchcock's classic works to enjoy the show. The play will keep you guessing and laughing 'til curtain call. The show's director, Abad-Santos, herself a Hitchcock fan has imbued the most passion into this ingeniously staged production. John Batalla's masterful light design has captured the noirish quality of Hitchcock's work that at times the scenes play out like an old black-and-white movie. Ditto Denis Lagdameo's set designs that have captured every mood and setting with aplomb. Credit must also be given to Jethro Joaquin's atmospheric sound design and it's impeccably timed tracks on Hitchcock moments. But the lion-share of the credit must go to cast and director for turning a straight whodunit caper into a riot of a play!
The 39 Steps will have gala shows on March 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 8pm, as well as matinee shows on March 5. 6. 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 3pm; all at the Onstage Theatre in Greenbelt 1. For more information, simply browse the company Web site, www.repertory.ph.

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