I’m not sure whether to call it a play, a comedy act or a magic show, but I do know that The 39 Steps at The Indiana Repertory Theatre is downright entertaining. Since seeing the show during opening weekend, I’ve been quoting hilarious lines and laughing as I remember the incredible stunts they pulled off.
A humorous take on a classic Hitchcock thriller, The 39 Steps relates the story of a man accused of murder in pre-World War II England who must stop a group of Nazi spies from delivering a British secret to their leaders, all while running from the police, falling in love and finding himself in several sticky situations in rural Scotland.
Amazingly, the IRT uses only four–yes, four–actors to delight, amaze and amuse the audience. The main character, Richard Hannay, is in the entire show, but the other three actors switch personas and costumes instantaneously, often playing more than one character in a single scene. Two men alone play at least 20 hysterical characters, including men, women, German henchmen and Scottish farmers. I was amazed by the speed of their intricate costume changes and their ability to switch quickly between several accents. The set is minimal, allowing the actors to build the set around them and improvise in ways that are usually hilarious, yet somehow believable. It might be difficult to fathom that two people and a ladder could make a convincing biplane, but they absolutely pulled it off and had me dying of laughter.
This play was funnier than any comedy show I’ve seen. Although there’s plenty of the sharp wit we expect from Brits, the show also incorporates cutting-edge, risque humor to keep even a younger audience entertained. I’m told that if you’re a Hitchcock fan, you will catch plenty of references to his other films as the show pokes fun at some of his darker works.
The 39 Steps will be on the IRT’s OneAmerica Stage through May 14, and there are usually shows Wednesday through Sunday of each week with the occasional Tuesday performance as well. The show runs about 2.5 hours including a 10-minute intro and a 15-minute intermission. Click here for the performance schedule or to order tickets online. Tickets range from $32 to $45, but the IRT is offering special $15 and $20 prices on a few of their shows, so be sure to check their website for the best deal before you order. The IRT almost always offers discounts to anyone with a student ID, but you usually have to place the order by phone (317.635.5252) and ask about it to get the discount.
If you’re looking for a laugh, an evening out, or a few hours to forget about real life, a madcap comedy like The 39 Steps is the perfect destination. Come prepared to temporarily suspend disbelief and get ready to laugh!