Like us on Facebook!

David Lissner
for restaurants

‘Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps’ a thrilling farce

Scott Parkinson, Claire Brownell, Ted Deasy and Eric Hissom, from left, in “Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps.” (Photo by Craig Schwartz.)

Scott Parkinson, Claire Brownell, Ted Deasy and Eric Hissom, from left, in “Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps.” (Photo by Craig Schwartz.)

Or maybe a farcical thriller.

Leaving the Bank of America Theatre after “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps,” I heard a woman say, “Alfred Hitchcock is usually serious. But this isn’t serious at all, is it?”

Oh, no. It’s silly as all get out.

Much in the same spirit as Charles Ludlam’s gothic spoof “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” this madcap pastiche by Patrick Barlow, based on a concept from Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, features four actors who reenact all the roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1935 film. Adapted from a novel by John Buchan, this quintessential chase story follows Canadian Richard Hannay, framed for the murder of a gorgeous secret agent, as he races across the Scottish moors, pursued by foreign spies and British police, and tries to unravel the mystery of “The 39 Steps” while handcuffed to a beautiful blonde.

While this parody, which uses much of the movie’s dialogue, isn’t quite the quick-change tour-de-force of “Vep,” there’s plenty to enjoy. Ted Deasy draws Hannay as broadly as possible. Claire Brownell vamps it up as the doomed spy Annabella Schmidt, cowers as the crofter’s wife, Margaret, and caps them as the plucky blonde bombshell Pamela.

Best of all, Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson hilariously play all the other roles, male and female, from chance-met train passengers to police inspectors to villains to the elderly couple running a Scottish hotel, switching back and forth with lightning speed — often right on stage in full view of the audience. It’s a special treat to see the superb Parkinson, a longtime Chicago actor, once again, and he’s particularly comic as the innkeeper’s wife.

Director Maria Aitkin works in props and puppets in very funny ways, sending up whole genres of stiff-upper-lip heroism, film tropes and stage conventions. Hitchcock fans should watch for meta-jokes about the great director’s canon, including such films as “Vertigo,” “Psycho” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

I can’t quite bring myself to recommend the costliest seats — with just four actors and simple sets, “The 39 Steps” seems better suited to a smaller house at lower prices — but this short run is worth catching if you can.

‘Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps’

Theater: Broadway in Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre in the Loop.

Through: May 30.

Tickets: $20–72.

Dining: I probably don’t need to tell you about The Italian Village, which has been a landmark in the Loop since 1927, but what could be more fitting way to get into the mood for a show based on a 1930s film? A half block from the theater, it’s also one of the few spots in the Loop open for a post-show meal.

Deals: Valet parking at The Italian Village is just $10, and you can leave your car there even if you aren’t dining.