Tuesday, March 9, 2010

39 steps

On Sunday (yes, I know it was Oscar night), Stephen and I went out to Portland Center Stage and saw The 39 Steps. I didn't have any Thirties clothes that fit the season, so I had to go for the decade after. What a fun evening. I laughed so much I worried that I was annoying the people in front of me. The woman behind me laughed so much she annoyed me.

I have to admit, I have some issues with the movie. (Don't hit me.)



There's the two-fugitives-who-hate-each-other-so-they-will-inevitably-fall-in-love thing. And the mysterious 39 steps is a tantalizing question with a let-down of an answer. But seeing the story the way it was performed at PCS was completely satisfying. Not only because of the tongue-in-cheek approach or the fact that the huge cast of characters was played by only four actors, but because those actors did such an amazing job.

I think I'd only seen Ebbe Roe Smith as Scrooge in the last PCS Christmas Carol. I've seen Darius Pierce in... well, he seems to be in every production I see in Portland. They were both fantastic - hysterical deliveries, great physical comedy, some very good drags - and even in their quickest quick-changes, they really became different people.

Leif Norby made a great 1930s leading man. I don't know if I'd seen him on stage before. What I did know him from is the locally-produced web series Wage Slaves. Check him out. A very different character. And I hear Darius Pierce is now part of the cast as well. The new season starts this month.

Christine Calfas was perfect for her three roles. Funny. Sexy. Somehow creating full, alive characters even with as played for laughs as this play is. And giving us poignant, even, on top of everything else we got out of her. The brief encounter between the handsome leading man, Richard Hannay, and Margaret the farm maid (Stephen, you're right, she is played by Peggy Ashcroft in the film) is one of the spots maybe most ripe for being played for laughs - and it was funny, yes, but Christine also gave us sweet. And sad.

One more thing about the cast - but about the non-human part of the cast... The scenes in silhouette? Loved. Maybe one of my favorite parts was when the silhouette cut-outs of the good guy and bad guys go running across the landscape, the camera (yes, the play created a camera for us) craning up a mountain, to stop on the enormous figure of a.......n elk? And then, blink: scene change, and we see the hero riding that elk through across the countryside. So funny.


  1. indeed, the film is a little ridiculous in the plotting but i think by then hitchcock could have cared less (cf hitchcock/truffaut on 'macguffin'). part of why the show works so well is that it imports the same details but sets them at a different pitch. honorific and mocking all at once. i loved the cutout silhouettes too. also, yes, ms calfus is sublime.

  2. Well done, my love. Couldn't agree more.