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Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013

‘39 Steps’ in The Park

A comic riff on Hitchcock

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The Phantom Cicada Theatre Company delivers a solidly comic evening of outdoor theater at summer’s end as it presents The 39 Steps. Drew Brhel directs a cast of four playing a great many roles in a briskly paced send-up of the 1930s Alfred Hitchcock spy story. William Bolz manages the right amount of wry humor in the role of Richard Hannay, a man caught up in matters beyond his control.

Libby Amato cleverly negotiates three distinctly different spy-genre stereotypes. As the story begins, she’s stunningly stylish as the German femme fatale. At the end she’s the sweetly assertive individual dragged along by a man destined to be her romantic lead. Somewhere in between, she plays a housewife living a life of quiet desperation who aids the hero.

Nate Press and Brian Faracy play to the more directly comic end of playwright Patrick Barlow’s script in an array of roles. Faracy’s sense of timing is sharp and well executed throughout. Press is at his best when delivering an earnestly off-balance comic mood. Here he has the opportunity to do so on numerous occasions so the roles suit him quite well. His most impressive moment is a particularly tricky bit of monologue that he delivers as the stage performer Mr. Memory at the end of the play. Press rattles off an extended bit of highly technical information with a comic fluidity that sounds almost effortless. Others in the cast applaud.

There are also several others onstage who serve as koken—theatrical ninjas who animate little props and bits of scenery that Brhel has used to deliver a sense of setting to the stage.

Phantom Cicada’s production of The 39 Steps runs through Sept. 14 at the SummerStage of Delafield in Lapham Peak State Park. For more information, call 262-337-1560 or visit summerstageofdelafield.org.