Sep. 24—If an Alfred Hitchcock murder mystery got mixed up with a Monty Python-esque farce, you'd likely get the play "The 39 Steps."
Putting four actors in the shoes of more than 150 characters who go from train chases to plane crashes, the show amps up the zaniness as much it does the intrigue.
"Turning that (classic movie feel) to the stage and it's also this comedic show where there's 150-plus characters being portrayed by four individuals. How is that not intriguing? So, challenge accepted," director Jessica Agnew said.
Presented by Robidoux Resident Theatre, "The 39 Steps" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Ruby Theater on 615 S. 10th St.
The play stars Fred Olson as Richard Hannay, a man who finds himself on the run after a mysterious woman, played by Melissa Gasper in one of several roles, is murdered in his home. Sam Smith and Jeremy Glenn play a variety of characters, sometimes within the same breath, including the agents chasing Hannay down.
Putting the production together, Agnew said she relied on the crew, which includes technical director Frank Polleck, sound designer Chuck Hazelwood and lighting designer Andrew Bramlage, to create the space for the cast to portray an array of characters and they ran with it.
"Just like how people think of movies — 'How can you put the book into a two-and-a-half-hour movie?' It's like, 'So how do you do that to the stage?'" she said. "That's where you have to have a really good tech crew behind you. And I very much do have people who understand their specific fields and being able to put everything and work everything together."
While the play operates under one narrative, Agnew said the pieces of the production have the feel of a sketch show, with actors dipping in and out of characters at random.
"It's one full story. But it seems like it's kind of broken up with these vignettes," she said.
Watching them dig into their roles and have a blast doing it, Agnew said it's a hilarious, unique production and experience.
"It's been quite the adventure of just watching them figure out what's going to work, what's not going to work, watching them as they're morphing and changing on the fly from character to character. It's been such a joy to watch them stretch themselves, changing dialect, changing physical mannerisms," she said.
As the opener for RRT's 2021-2022 season, Agnew said she hopes "The 39 Steps" sets a good tone for the year, where people can kick back, laugh and be reminded of the fun that community theater can provide.
"I hope people can just step away from their busy lives. We do shows on the weekend, so it's a great time to breathe, relax and just enjoy some really good, comedic, fun shows," she said.
Tickets are $28 to $34. They are available for purchase by calling 816-232-1778, visiting rrtstjoe.org or visiting their office at 615 S. 10th St. An optional pre-show dinner is available at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Andrew Gaug can be reached at email@example.com.
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