Buffalo Theatre Ensemble Opens 2017-2018 Season ‘The 39 Steps’ Sept. 7 to Oct. 8

BTE 39 Steps image

By Ann Fink

Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, the professional equity company in residence at the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, opens its 2017-2018 season with “The 39 Steps,” adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan. BTE Ensemble Member Kurt Naebig directs this zany Hitchcock-inspired whodunit. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 7 through Oct. 8.

This Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning play, featuring more than 150 characters played by a nimble cast of four, is packed with nonstop laughs, dozens of wacky characters, some good old-fashioned romance and more. When an unassuming man’s night ends with a woman’s murder in his apartment, he soon finds he must run from the spy organization "The 39 Steps” to discover a way to clear his name. The New York Times writes “‘The 39 Steps’ remains a gallant and giggly ode to make-do resourcefulness, to the air of spinning illusions out of nothing but a clown’s talents.” “The 39 Steps” is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

“This is the kind of show I really enjoy directing, actors love performing and audiences relish seeing,” said Naebig. “In addition to a cast with a knack for comedy, this show requires split-second timing both onstage and backstage, and offers the actors, stage crew and the audience all the excitement and fun of a full-tilt roller coaster ride. Fans of Hitchcock’s work will especially savor the allusions to other Hitchcock films including ‘Strangers on a Train,’ ‘Rear Window,’ ‘Psycho,’ ‘Vertigo’ and ‘North by Northwest’.”

Alfred Hitchcock, an admirer of Buchan's fiction, altered the plot in his film adaptation of “The 39 Steps” from focusing on espionage and impending threats to England to using the spy thriller plot to examine the main character’s relationships with women and marriage in general. Hitchcock’s movie, released in 1935, established his name in the U.K. and U.S., and in 1999, the film was named the fourth greatest British film ever in a poll by the British Film Institute

The first play version of “The 39 Steps” was written by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon and premiered in the U.K. 1995 in Richmond, North Yorkshire. Barlow reworked the script, keeping the scenes, staging and small-scale feel. On June 17, 2005, his re-adaption premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Fourteen months later it had its London premiere at London’s Tricycle Theatre. The production was transferred to the Criterion Theatre in London's West End where it closed in September 2015, making it the fifth longest running play in West End history. In 2007 Barlow’s adaptation premiered in U.S. in a Huntington Theatre Company production at the Boston University Theatre, and opened on Broadway in January 2008. To date “The 39 Steps” has played in more than 40 countries worldwide and has won Olivier, Helpmann, Moliere and two 2008 Tony awards.

Patrick Barlow (adapter), named the most performed playwright in America for 2012, is well known in the U.K. for his two-man theater company National Theatre of Brent, which has been honored with two Sony Gold Awards, a Premier Ondas Award for Best European Comedy, and the New York Festival Gold Award for Best Comedy. Barlow’s acting credits include numerous films including “Absolutely Fabulous,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Notting Hill” and “Bridget Jones' Diary.” Stage performance credits include Pseudolus in “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum,” Humphry in Simon Gray’s “The Common Pursuit,” and Toad in the Royal National Theatre’s “The Wind in the Willows.”

The cast for BTE’s production of “The 39 Steps” includes Bryan Burke (Hannay), Becca Cox (Annabela, etc), Daniel Millhouse (Clown) and Matthew Singleton (Clown).The design team includes Sarah Lewis (Scenic Designer); Mieka van der Ploeg (Costume Designer); Jon Gantt (Lighting Designer); Christopher Kriz (Sound Designer); Neil Massey (Fight Choreographer); and Jillian Luce (Properties Designer). Stage manager is David A Loranca. BTE Stage Management Scholarship recipient Nathan Evans is Assistant Stage Manager.

Tickets are $37. For tickets or more information visit atthemac.org or call (630) 942-4000.

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