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Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and the movie of Alfred Hitchcock, Raleigh Little Theater’s production of The 39 Steps, a cheeky British comedy, is an excellent audience-pleaser. The show includes hilarious effects (such as the actors simulating wind by vigorously shaking their coats), musical excerpts from Hitchcock’s movies, and sheer acting talent, all of which contribute to making this play quite memorable. The cast and crew gave a flawless performance Saturday the 13th as they led their audience through the wonders of espionage, romance, and intrigue of this Tony Award-winning play.
Jesse Gephart (Richard Hannay) perfectly portrays a handsome young man with an appetite for adventure and a knack for stealing the hearts of ladies. Gephart started at RLT in ’98 and has been involved in several shows around the Triangle. He nails the British humor with excellence and keeps the audience in suspense in all of his actions. All of Gephart’s love interests are played by Staci Sabarsky, a graduate of UNC’s Department of Dramatic Arts. Sabarsky, who sings with The Moonlighters Orchestra in addition to acting, does such a fantastic job of individualizing each character, adopting different accents, clothes, and traits, so much so that the audience would never guess the same actress underlies the different dames unless they glance at their programs. Her swanky attitude and beauty as Annabella lure Mr. Hannay early in the play. After she dies in his apartment, her last words lead him on a quest to know what the 39 steps are. Sabarsky also plays a Scottish maid named Margaret and an initially uptight woman named Pamela, who for most of the play believes Hannay to be a delusional criminal but who eventually falls in love with the dashing protagonist. Del Flack and Tony Hefner (Man 1 and Man 2) absolutely wow the audience with impressive costume changes, movements, and hilarity.
The production team does an excellent job of putting this show together. Haskel Fitz-Simmons directs the show and brings out the best in all of the actors. Jenny Mitchell’s costumes,* Thomas Mauney’s scenery and lighting, and Rich Labach’s sound design all fit together to reflect each mood of the play. Todd Alberts (Technical Director), Elaine Petrone (Stage Manager), and John T. “Jack” Hall (Production Assistant) form the rest of the production team of this successful show. It is quite evident that The 39 Steps requires attention to many fine details, and this talented cast and crew skimp out on none of them. While the stage is sparse and sound, lights, and props are used sparingly, this only further serves to highlight the wonderful on-stage acting. This production induces many laughs and keeps the audience entranced and enchanted for the duration of the program.
The 39 Steps continues through Sunday, October 28. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.
*Edited/corrected 10/17 - with thanks to an attentive reader!