Monday, November 9, 2015

THE 39 STEPS • Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Patrick Barlow’s 2005 spy spoof was adapted from a couple of sources -- John Buchan’s 1915 adventure novel, and its later incarnation as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 thriller flick, and SATE is currently tearing it up with nimble direction by Kirsten Wylder and a sharp, equally nimble cast of four, who cover dozens and dozens of roles during the course of this delightfully wild ride.

When our hero, Richard Hannay (Pete Winfrey), dapper with his pencil-thin mustache, relieves his boredom with a night at the theatre, he runs into Annabella Schmidt (Rachel Tibbetts), an alluring German spy in black, who talks him into sheltering her for the night, as she’s on the run.
Kristen Storm, Pete Winfrey, Rachel Tibbetts,
Carl Overly, Jr., Ellie Schwetye and Erin Renée Roberts.
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell
This leads Hannay into a whirlwind of mistaken identity, espionage, and top-shelf farce.

Winfrey handles his role as the debonair Hannay with just the right touch of poker-faced charm, and Tibbetts plays the leading ladies he runs across convincingly with comic style. Carl Overly, Jr. and Ellie Schwetye, credited as “Clown 1” and “Clown 2,” play everyone else, from a pair of innkeepers, (where Schwetye is especially hilarious), spies, cops, vaudeville performers, and then some. Overly is priceless as a vaudeville mind-reader and a Scottish matriarch, and Schwetye even makes a brief appearance as a crop duster that pursues Hannay, à la Hitchcock’s "North By North-West.” These two are particularly dexterous with crazy fast changes in character, costumes and dialect, and they all turn in tireless performances with some great physical comedy.

Pete Winfrey, Carl Overly, Jr.
and Ellie Schwetye.
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell
Keeping a high pace is essential for this kind of play to work, and Wylder keeps the shenanigans at an ideal clip, and the cast makes the action easy to follow and understand. Scott De Broux’s scenic design makes the most of the small space of the Chapel, and Schwetye fills in the blanks, considerably adding to the action with terrific sound design. Lighting designer Erik Kuhn highlights the different areas of the stage well, and Elizabeth Henning provides a huge lineup of tone-perfect costumes.

This production, playing until the 14th, is loads of fun with strong work from the cast and crew. Check it out!

(front); Carl Overly, Jr., Ellie Schwetye
(back); Pete Winfrey and Rachel Tibbetts.
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell

Written by Patrick Barlow, adapted from the novel by John Buchan and the film by Alfred Hitchcock
Directed by Kirsten Wylder 
through November 14 | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8pm

Richard Hannay: Pete Winfrey
Annabella Schmidt/Margaret/Pamela: Rachel Tibbetts
Clown 1: Carl Overly, Jr.
Clown 2: Ellie Schwetye

Pete Winfrey, Rachel Tibbetts,
Carl Overly, Jr. and Ellie Schwetye.
Photo credit: Joey Rumpell
Assistant Director: Scott De Broux
Stage Manager: Kristin Rion
Scenic Designer: Scott De Broux
Lighting Designer: Erik Kuhn
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Henning
Sound Designer: Ellie Schwetye
Props: Rachel Tibbetts
Assistant Stage Manager: Erin Renée Roberts
Assistant Stage Manager: Kristen Storm
Dialect Coach: Pamela Reckamp
Sound Board Operator: Katy Keating
Graphic Designer: Dottie Quick
Photography: Joey Rumpell

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