'The 39 Steps' opens Tuesday at Geva
05:00 AM, Oct 20, 2013
If the sold-out theaters at The Little are any indication, Rochester has a love affair with Alfred Hitchcock.
As a warm-up to The 39 Steps a Hitchcock farce opening Tuesday at Geva Theatre Center The Little, Geva and WXXI Public Broadcasting sponsored a four-week film series to screen the play’s namesake, plus Vertigo, The Birds and Rear Window.
What people may not realize is how much humor is in Hitchcock films, says Sean Daniels, director of the play (which he calls more of a comedic tribute). He and the cast were surprised that some of the funnier phrases in the play were lifted right from the movie script for the suspenseful spy thriller.
The play has only four actors playing several dozen roles. Clown 1 and Clown 2, played by Book Club Play alum Aaron Muñoz and Buffalo native Joel Van Liew, sometimes become multiple characters in a scene, having conversations with each other. Props and costume elements need to change quickly and on cue, adding to the comedy or the confusion.
“I love a big, fast, hard comedy,” says John Gregorio, another Book Club Play actor who is the only actor who plays a single character, Richard Hannay. “You feel like you’re using every bit of your instrument your voice, your body.”
There’s definitely no wading in, Muñoz adds. The actors need to be fully invested.
And that takes courage, says Honeoye Falls native Monica West, who plays Hannay’s three ingenues. It works with this cast because “we have four people who work very similarly. We all say, ‘Let’s do it, let’s just try it.’ “
West says she saw the play on Broadway and thought, “There’s not many plays where you get to play glamorous, yet ridiculous, at the same time.”
The way Daniels and the actors talk about the play, it’s clear that this is a very physical comedy. It also packs in as many Hitchcock references as possible some written into the play, some added by the production. (Facebook photos also hint at shadow play with cutouts, perhaps even incorporating the iconic Hitchcock cameo.)
For the astute Hitchcock fan, all this promises a slew of discoveries to be made. “We want there to be as many Easter eggs as we can (give),” Daniels says.
The play is part of Geva’s audience engagement efforts, and the cast has been out meeting with patrons and at the film series. A group of community members also has been able to sit in on rehearsals the second time Geva has tried this experiment, called the Cohorts Club, which has been receiving national attention. In an additional twist to the effort, a limited number of people will get to see the backstage frenzy during the first act.
That frenzy makes the stage crew an even more integral part of the show. Stephie Kesselring, for example, plays a (hopefully) unseen role as the mover of big pieces of the set, such as a 10-foot window. After all, why should the cast get all the fun?
If you go
If you go
The 39 Steps.
When: Tuesday through Nov. 17, with previews at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. Official opening is 8 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd.
Cost: $25 and above.
For tickets: Call (585) 232-4382 or go to gevatheatre.org.
Other shows this week
Other shows this week
Geva Theatre Center will be busy this week. Its Festival of New Theatre will run Wednesday through Nov. 3 in Nextstage. FONT 2013, as it does every year, gives people a chance to see works in progress from well-known playwrights. The festival’s opening night, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, features True Home by Rochester native Cass Morgan of Pump Boys & Dinette fame. It’s a memoir of sorts, so people should be able to find familiarity with references to her childhood. A Conversation with Nora Cole (Fences, Voices of the Spirits in my Soul) at 7 p.m. Friday will feature very raw work for an as-yet-named new piece inspired by her grandfather’s experience as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II. Writers of premieres in Geva’s 2013-14 season Greg Kotis (All Your Questions Answered), John Cariani (Last Gas), Deborah Zoe Laufer (Informed Consent), Eric Coble (Stranded on Earth) and Mat Smart (Tinker to Evers to Chance) will share excerpts at 8 p.m. Oct. 28. For more, go to gevatheatre.org. The shows are free, but reservations are required.
Julius Caesar will be on stage at MuCCC, 142 Atlantic Ave., from Friday to Nov. 9, presented by The Shakespeare Players program of the Rochester Community Players. Tickets are $19. (585) 244-0960 or rochestercommunityplayers.org.
Delphine and Carmela are back with Bun in the Oven: Contractions with the Calamari Sisters, the next chapter in the comedy franchise. It runs from Thursday through Nov. 10 at RAPA East End Theatre, 727 E. Main St. Tickets are $25 to $45. Call (585) 325-3366 or go to rapatheatre.org.
Dr. Doolittle is tackled by talented youth actors in a Magical Journey Thru Stages production that runs from Friday through Nov. 3 in the third-floor space at the Auditorium Center, 875 E. Main St. Tickets are $16 ($13 in advance). Call (585) 935-7173 or go to mjtstages.com.
Hourglass Play Reading Series kicks off its season this year with Walter Cronkite is Dead in the free script-in-hand reading at 3 p.m. Saturday at Blackfriars Theatre, 795 E. Main St. For more, call (585) 520-2940 or go to hourglassplays.org.
The BUM Players of Brockport are telling a decidedly Rochester story with Strange Brew with a Side of Murder, a participatory show that will benefit Brockport Kiwanis children’s programming. What happens when a murder happens at Rohrbach’s? Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and also Nov. 1 and 2, at the Sweden Senior Center, 133 State St., Brockport. Tickets are $10. Call (585) 637-5656.