Saturday, March 10, 2012


Transforming a classic film to the stage is never easy, but 39 Steps, the current offering at McKeesport Little Theatre, turns the Hitchcock thriller into a riotous evening of fun.

Director Mark Calla has assembled a brilliant cast to bring the film to life. 

Sean David Butler looks every inch the 1930's matinee idol as Richard Hanney, the bored Englishman who finds himself embroiled in espionage.  Butler's accent never falters.  His comic timing is spot on, and he excels at the physical humor.

Samantha Mitchell plays Pamela, Annabella and Margaret, and her physical transformations are wonderful.  However, her accents are not always consistent, and she is often hard-to-hear.

As the two clowns (who play multiple, multiple roles), Andy Coleman and TJ Firneno nearly steal the show.  They make costume (and character) changes at lightning fast speed...and change accents just about as often.   Their breathless transformations bring much of the humor to 39 Steps.  My only complaint that Coleman (who plays all the incidental women) doesn't make much of a distinction between them.  His men are clearly drawn, but this female characters could be almost interchangeable without their distinctive costumes.  But hats off to both Coleman and Firneno for taking on the challenge of playing so many characters--and playing them with such high energy and humor.

Calla keeps the pace fairly tight.  Act Two does slow a little, but, overall, the show moves very well.

On opening night there were some glitches with scenes changes (of which there must be at least 75), and sound levels could be adjusted up, but when the level of performances is this high, those things can be overlooked.  And I am certain that as the run continues, these difficulties will quickly be resolved.

It's a raucous blend of cornball humor, romance, slapstick, funny visuals, espionage and intrigue...and you'll laugh yourself silly.

39 Steps continues through March 25.

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