Thursday, November 1, 2018
By Eric McCrea
When there’s a chill in the air, head to Lisbon for a thrill on stage. That’s where the Stage Left Players are presenting “The 39 Steps.”
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest films, “Steps” is a spy story with romantic elements and lots of action, and the stage version also has a ton of comedy.
Stage Left Players didn’t miss a beat with a fine cast and a packed house Saturday night.
Richard Hannay, played by Paul Dahman, meets a mysterious woman while spending an evening at the theater. After the two of them return to his flat, she confides in him that she is a spy in danger, which Richard believes after she winds up dead on his armchair.
He decides to complete her mission, but must evade authorities who believe him to be a murderer, while skirting rival agents who want to kill him. Fortunately, the handsome suspect has no trouble finding allies along the way.
This mad caper moved fast and director Kandace Cleland emptied the bag of theater tricks. Fun sounds effects, definitive film-noir music, a great stage crew and an obliterated fourth wall all helped make this play a huge success. The inclusion of shadow puppets was a hilarious surprise.
The cast is limited to four, but with at least 20 characters, there are a lot of quick costume changes. The cast changed garb and persona with stunning swiftness, leaving the audience awestruck.
Dahman only played one role, but was excellent as the leading man. He was the perfect mix of devilish and harmless, and he had a real knack for physical comedy.
Jennifer Milligan plays three characters, all of whom find themselves entangled with Hannay in various ways. She was great at capturing those black- and-white era film mannerisms and had one of the best death scenes. Eric Kibler wore about a dozen hats in as many roles. He had a gift for accents and rotated through them breezily. His professor character was a standout amongst some wonderful characters.
Jacob Ward was in his element, jumping from character to character in the blink of an eye. He was incredible at coming up with distinct voices, which were most noticeable when he played Mr. Memory and the hotel keeper’s wife.
Kibler and Ward had great chemistry together, at times on par with the likes of Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, or Lucy and Desi. An early train ride scene with Dahman made it apparent that this cast was at its best, and the rest of the show was just as brilliant.
“The 39 Steps” can be seen at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Trinity Playhouse, 234 E. Lincoln Way, Lisbon. For reservations call 330-831-7249 or go to stageleftplayers.org.