SARANAC LAKE — During this summer’s repertory, Pendragon Theatre finally takes on Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” for a limited run starting Friday.
A London and Broadway smash, Patrick Barlow wrote the adaptation of John Buchan’s 1915 novel and Hitchcock’s 1935 film. The comedic espionage story puns and alludes to Hitchcock films.
“Susan (Neal) likes to do an out and out comedy during the summer,” said Bonnie Brewster, director. “This is definitely a comedy. The basic plot is based on the movie, ‘The 39 Steps’ of Alfred Hitchcock. Four actors create a spoof of the movie with very little props and set pieces.
“The main actor (Ross Taylor) plays only one character (Richard Hannay). The actress (Donna Moschek) plays three different parts (Annabella Schmidt, Margaret and Pamela Edwards) in the play.”
Hannay, an Englishman just back from a Canadian sojourn, is bored in London and goes to the theater for the evening.
“He meets a woman and becomes unwittingly embroiled in a spy story,” Brewer said. “She’s a spy hiding out from guys who are after her. She stays the night at his apartment.”
The outcome leaves Hannay on the run.
Quick-change actors Matt Sorensen and Tim Wagoner play Clown 1 and Clown 2, as well as salesman, milkman, comedy duo, housekeepers, policemen, newspaper boys, villain, pilot and farmer.
“Everybody else, Hannay meets during the course of the play,” Brewer said.
“The 39 Steps” may be the death of her.
“There is nothing on the set. The point of nothing on the set is to make something on the set. There’s a lot going on with the set with the curtain and special effects. They’re madly trying to finish the set right now,” Brewer said.
It seems Brewer gets the rollicking comedies.
“If they have one with very few people and a lot of imagination, they land in my lap. I wanted to do this from the moment I read about the London production. It sounds like so much fun. We tried to do it a few years ago, but the Depot had gotten the rights to it. So, we waited a few years. People like it enough; they will come and see what someone else did.”
One of her challenges is the Hitchcock nuances.
“It’s written so the other movies get mentioned: ‘Vertigo,’ ‘Stranger on the Train,’ ‘North by Northwest,’ ‘The Man who Lived Too Much.’ Some of the lesser known titles are in there: ‘Rear Window,’ ‘Secret Agent,’ ‘Suspicion,’ ‘Champagne,’ ‘The Farmer’s Wife’ and ‘The Lodger.’ The fun part is to find other ways to represent the other Hitchcock movies. Some are written in. Some are in as visual cues,” Brewer said.
“I have to think he has to appreciate the humor seeing he was able to mock his own stuff. He would be entertained by this whole production, no matter who does it.”
In one scene, different music is played each time a door opens. She switches it up to keep the actors on edge.
“I keep telling them, we want it to go kind of awry,” Brewer said. “It’s supposed to look like your flying from the seat of your pants. It’s a fun play. I can’t imagine it will come off the same any given night.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. this Friday and Saturday; also July 26, 27 and 31; and Aug. 1, 2, 3, 9 and 10. Matinee performance at 2 p.m. July 22.
WHERE: Pendragon Theatre, 15 Brandy Brook Ave., Saranac Lake.
TICKETS: $20 adults. $18 seniors. $10 students. $12 matinee.
CONTACT: 891-1954 or www.pendragontheatre.org.