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Shows Worth Seeing:



Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps
Adapted by Patrick Barlow
Cort Theatre
138 W. 48th St.
Box office: (212) 239-6200

When I rented Hitchcock’s film The Thirty-Nine Steps in anticipation of seeing this terrifically absurd theatrical adaptation by the British comedian Patrick Barlow, I realized that I’d forgotten how early the film is. It was made in 1935, and though it displays all the wonderfully distinctive markers of Hitchcock’s later, more technically sophisticated masterpieces, it is itself comparatively maladroit and clunky—with many scenes looking like they were staged in a tiny, poorly equipped garage. This makes it, of course, ripe for a theatrical sendup, and Barlow and the director Maria Aitken have exploited every imaginable angle. The story is the basic spy-chase suspense thriller that Hitchcock made his trademark, in which an innocent and rather ordinary man is framed by circumstantial evidence and then hounded by good and bad pursuers until one or more unlikely twists rescues him. In this stage version, four actors (three men and a woman) play more than 150 roles, switching identities and circumstances with dizzying speed and madcap exuberance. The pleasure is not just in watching their ridiculous, self-multiplying antics but also in their perceptiveness in recognizing the stagey, melodramatic pith of the original scenes. The ultimate ridiculousness, of course, is that such a humble show is playing on Broadway, but don’t let that keep you away.



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