ONSTAGE in Bedford
Directed by Mike Hathaway
Artistic Director – Michael Winters
Set Design – Mike Hathaway and Jim Scroggins
Lighting Design – Michael Winters
Costume Design – Jessica Cothren
Sound Design – Danica Bergeron
Properties Design – Saira Peters, Mike Hathaway, Jessica Cothren
Choreographer – Jana Edele
Stage Manager – Saira Peters
Richard Hannay – John Tillman
Annabella/Pamela/Margaret – Elisa Danielle
Clown 1 – David Willie
Clown 2 – MJ Greene
Reviewed Performance 10/24/2014
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The 39 Steps is a spoof on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie of the same name. ONSTAGE in Bedford takes on this spy play where Richard Hannay, a man with a boring life, quickly becomes entangled in a web of deceit and mystery as he tries to clear his name of murder. This is a fast-paced whodunit with a mixture of a Hitchcock masterpiece with a dash of Monty Python. Four talented actors play over 150 different characters, thus the film’s serious spy story is played mainly for laughs, and the script is full of physical comedy with a few allusions and puns on other Hitchcock films.
Director Mike Hathaway did a phenomenal job assembling the cast who was able to easily portray all 150 characters that were needed for this show to be a success. Each of the actors worked off of each other well, which only added to the humor of the show.
Set design by Mike Hatahway and Jim Scroggins was simple and complex all at the same time. They made full use of the stage with four moveable walls, a moveable door, and two stationary balconies. With these elements, they were able to masterfully construct multiple locations including a play house, a mansion, an apartment, a train, chase scenes, and many more. The walls and door were of neutral color which allowed for smooth transitions from location to location. While there were timing issues in all of the moving parts coming together to make a new location, they were minor and easily skimmed over.
Jessica Cothren’s costume designs were essential in this play. With so many characters played by only four actors, costumes were the only way of distinguishing who was who in the play. Richard Hanney was dressed in slacks, a button down shirt, and a sports jacket along with a tie. Annabelle was dressed to the nines in a long formal gown and fur coat, while Pamela was in a black pencil skirt with a button down red shirt. Each of these lead roles was enhanced by their attire to show their professionalism and power. Clown 1 and 2 were constantly in the throes of costume changes, but each of them was anchored by a black tuxedo. The use of hats, robes, varying stages of dress and undress made up the rest of the characters. Cothren’s choice of costumes allowed for the audience to be able to follow the fast-moving play and character changes.
Choreography by Jana Edele was seamless and beautifully done to allow for the physical comedy and constant movement of the set to be integrated perfectly. This was seen especially during the train scene while Clown 1 and 2 were playing over ten characters and moving quickly between a train and platform. Edele worked within the confines of the set to allow for realistic movement including the use of slow-motion and quick steps to pace the play.
Michael Winters’ Lightening design was simple, yet effective. With the use of spotlights and full lights, the stage was always set in subtle tones that moved smoothly from one to the other. The use of a single bulb lamp gave a hint of ambiance and familiarity as the set changed. The use of shadow pupping enhanced the play to a level which allowed for a plane to crash onstage.
Sound design by Danica Bergeron made this show pop with life. The plane crash onstage to the “dum-dum-dummmm” after every mention of “The 39 Steps” only made each element of the show that much funnier. Each of the actors interacted with the sound which brought the sound to the forefront of my mind and how each was purposefully thought out and well executed to only enhance the production.
Richard Hannay, the man caught up in a spy plot, was played by John Tillman. Tillman’s facial expressions with raised eyebrows and pointed stairs allowed for these semi-serious actions to only add to the comedy of the script. Each line was only enhanced with his excellent enunciation and vocal inflection. His stealthy movements as he evaded arrest were even more comical through the use of slow motion and the flapping of his tie as he dropped from a bridge into the water below. Tillman’s wide eyes as he became involved with the leading ladies were telling of his human nature of a man while he tried to combat this with his desire to right Hannay’s name. Each of Tillman’s actions was well thought through and accentuated the theme of the play.
Elisa Danielle played the three leading ladies, Annabella, Pamela, and Margaret. While there were subtle differences between the acting of the three roles by Danielle, there were key tell-tale signs that were hard to miss. Annabella was characterized through Danielle’s wide eyes and pointed stares. Danielle added to this with the sway of her hips and heavy French accent. Pamela, the accuser and protector, allowed for Danielle to show a complex character with diabolical beliefs. With creased brows and pursed lips, Danielle emphasized the frustrated tone that Pamela had with Richard Hannay. Margaret though was a lonely wife seeking attention that Richard openly gave. Danielle highlighted this with fluttering eye-lashes and constant touches that showed the attraction between the two characters. Danielle did a great job of bringing each of these women to their full potential with these elements.
David Willie excelled in the role of Clown 1. Characterization was easy to see through the use of different accents, inflections, and vocal tones. With each new character Willie was pivotal in showcasing their need in the play. Willie’s puffed chest and pulled back shoulders as the police, yet warm-hearted and tender smiles as the hotel keeper. Willie never once faltered from character and moved seemingly effortlessly between them. Willie is talented beyond description in the undertaking of Clown 1. Most of the physical comedy falls upon the clowns, and Willie through tripping on air, and wandering hands was only highlighted through the glint in his eye and smile on his face.
Clown 2 was portrayed by MJ Greene. Greene did an amazing job as she crosses genders and plays a plethora of characters. Her Cheshire cat grin and shaking of her head were her tell-tale signs and were slightly different as she displayed a new character. She smoothly transitions from one to the next and added flair of personality to each of them. As the professor’s wife, Greene allowed for an extra dose of flirting with her raised eyebrows and giggles. In the train scene Greene seemed slightly unsure of which character she was playing as she did a double take on which hat was on her head and which was in her hand. This stumble though was easily corrected and a slight blurb in the show. With a non-working fog machine, Greene was able to ad-lib and work it directly into the play. As the memory man, Greene’s bows and shaking of her head brought the scene to life and only added to the humor of the scene.
The humor of this show landed on Willie and Greene and each of them did a fabulous job and kept the laughter coming.
ONSTAGE in Bedford kept the audience engaged with The 39 Steps. This comedy-thriller kept the audience of the edge of their seat as they awaited the next element of the spy thriller, while also guessing when the next physical comedy would occur. ONSTAGE has knocked this one out of the park and it is a hit.
THE 39 STEPS
ONSTAGE in Bedford
2819 Forest Ridge Drive
Bedford, TX 76021
Runs through November 9th
Ticket prices are $14.99; seniors, students, and Bedford residents are $12.00.
For tickets and information, go to www.onstageinbedford.com or call the Box Office at 817-354-6444.