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Theater Review: The 39 Steps at the Ahmanson

The 39 Steps Photo 2.jpg
Eric Hissom, Claire Brownwell, Scott Parkinson and Ted Deasy in The 39 Steps | Photo by Craig Schwartz.
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The 39 Steps, which opened at the Ahmanson Theatre earlier this week, is a re-imagining of the Hitchcock classic thriller. And boy, old Alfred’s never been re-imagined quite like this: a high-energy mix of mystery, mayhem and Monty Python-esque humor.

The stage play is a fun, spoofy sendup of the 1935 film about a bored English bachelor who gets caught up in a ring of espionage and murder, with a little romance thrown in for good measure. What’s most amazing about the play is that there are only four actors--Claire Brownwell, Ted Deasy, Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson--playing more than 100 characters on stage. It’s old-fashioned slapstick comedy and it works well.

Richard Hannay (Deasy) meets a woman (Brownwell) at the theater claiming to be a spy. She ends up dead in his apartment, and he realizes that he a) is being framed for her murder and b) needs to save England from a nefarious network wanting to destroy the country. Hannay does the only thing he can do: He runs away to Scotland on a series of madcap adventures encountering many country folk and police, many played to the hilt by the hilarious scene-stealers Hissom and Parkinson.