Saturday, April 13, 2024

Tickling Hitchcock’s funny bone at San Francisco Playhouse

Riotous. Rip-roaring. These aren’t terms usually associated with Alfred Hitchcock. But they do perfectly describe the play The 39 Steps, from one of Hitchcock’s lesser known films from the 1930s.

While it was originally based upon a book and became a thriller under Hitchcock’s eye, the stage production has been injected with slapstick and broad humor thanks to the clever mind of Patrick Barlow.

On the stage, the play has won acclaim both in London and New York, receiving all kinds of awards and nominations. Now it’s the San Francisco Playhouse’s turn and they reached for the funny bone and tickled us to snort laugh throughout the show. The theme of murder and a falsely accused leading man still are at the core of the show. But writer Barlow decided to take us down the comedic path to the show’s resolution.While the star is for sure the writing — Susi Damilano’s clever direction keeps the show flowing and her staging makes it easy for the cast, who some play multiple roles, find the humor in their need for quick changes.

Leading man Phil Wong is the sad sack for many of the jokes and put into the most outrageous positions on stage, relying heavily on physical humor. His love interest aka sidekick Maggie Mason too puts her trust in the director and cast and allows herself to be handcuffed, lifted up, dropped, pulled – can she keep this up until the show closes April 7?

While they both are great, the supporting actors are truly the scene stealers: Greg Ayers and Renee Rogoff play all the supporting characters and sometimes multiple roles at the same time, having wigs and changes of clothing thrown at them or hidden on stage. They both also play people from different countries and are able to convincingly change accents in a snap of a finger.

The whole show with it film noir look and feel creates a world that a Hitchcock story would definitely be set it. Then it turns it on its head, making a super fun night at the theatre!

If you need a laugh:

Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for and contributes to as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 156 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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