LIVE THEATRE: ‘The 39 Steps’ a fun take on suspenseful whodunit

SURREY — It’s hard enough to put together a play with a full cast, but what about one with 150 characters and only four actors?

That’s a lot of wardrobe changes.

Peninsula Productions is doing more with less in their rendition of The 39 Steps, an adventure novel turned 1935 Hitchcockian thriller turned lighthearted play-within-aplay. It’s a man-on-the-run whodunit, but it’s not as dark and menacing as the original tale.

"It’s not making fun of it, but sending up that whole genre of film," said Wendy Bollard, artistic director of Peninsula Productions. "It’s a very funny show, it’s not serious at all."

The show stars Cory Haas – a Surrey resident – in the lead role as Richard Hannay, a suave and charming Englishman wanting more out of life. He goes to see a show in a theatre, where a gunshot rings out, and takes home a mysterious woman only for her to be dead by morning.

Soon, a mysterious organization called The 39 Steps is hot on his trail in a manhunt that climaxes in a death-defying finale. You must be asking, where’s the comedy? Don’t worry, it’s there.

"The premise is that these four actors are deciding to put on The 39 Steps as a play, and of course, everything sort of goes wrong in the production," said Haas. "All these actors are playing all these different characters and trying to recreate chase sequences and train sequences.

"There’s something just a bit off, and that’s really where the comedy comes from."

While Haas only plays Hannay throughout the show, his co-stars – Laura Caswell, Ashley O’Connell and Ben Odberg – aren’t so lucky.

"It’s a stellar cast, and they’re doing an amazing job," said Bollard. "Laura plays three different characters – the femme fatale, a little Scottish woman and the love interest. The other two play 100 different characters – women, men, milkmen, police."

If it wasn’t challenging enough to portray 150 characters with only four actors, the performance also involves an onstage plane crash and elaborate pursuit scenes with minimal props.

"You have to be incredibly imaginative, and the audience has to go along for the ride.That’s, I think, the biggest fun of this show," said Bollard.

The show has been a big hit in London’s West End and on Broadway, and Bollard promises audiences will enjoy their parodic take on the suspenseful story, set to take over the Coast Capital Playhouse for the next two weeks.

The 39 Steps previews Friday (July 9) at 8 p.m., and runs through July 25. The theatre has 8 p.m. performances Wednesday through Saturday, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sundays.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors, plus service charges. For more information or to buy tickets, call the Coast Capital Playhouse box office (1532 Johnston Rd., White Rock) at 604-536-7535, or buy online at peninsulaproductions.org.

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