Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 7, 2016

39 Steps

Suffield Players, Suffield, CT
through May 21, 2016
by Shera Cohen

If any local community theatre troupe can handle the character changes, set intricacies, and fast-paced plot twists of “The 39 Steps” it is Suffield Players. The play begins with an actor standing in profile as Alfred Hitchcock, director of the 1930’s film of the same name. Interestingly, nearly all of the scenes and a good deal of the dialog are taken directly from the silver screen and placed on the theatre stage. Yet, there is one huge difference. As taut and sinister as the film is, the play is (for the most part) a raucous comedy.

Under the cloud of WWII rumblings enters our hero, a dapper 20-something with a curl on his forehead named Hannay. Soon to arrive is a damsel in distress – a woman of typical intrigue, a taste for fish, and an ax to grind. The setting is Scotland, which offers the actors the opportunity to intentionally mangle the accents. Three actors round out the cast, each portraying about 10 characters each. These are the “Clowns.” It is their job to keep the action as fast and furious as they are able to change costumes.

Director Roger Ochs’ cast showcase a mix of “regulars” and “newbees.” In the latter category are the two leads, Tyler Wolfson and Libby Miserendino. Wolfson infuses his role with boyish charm, self-deprecating humor, and a bit of dim wit. Miserandino (in two roles) is equally effective as the femme fatal, later the no-nonsense love interest. Hopefully, audiences will see each actor on many more stages in the future.

Barbara Gallow (Clown 1) is malleable and handles each character well. Konrad Rogowski (Clown 2) puts his comedic emphasis on vocalization especially when portraying females. Steve Wandzy (Clown 3) unabashedly uses physical humor by every means practical.

Those familiar with Suffield’s venue recall its small stage which adds to the difficultly of numerous sets. A train scene works best (trust me, you have to see it). Yet box seats and a library are elevated too high from the first level of the stage that audience members must crane their necks. As for all of the successful backstage work, those on lights, sound, and costuming were keen on much to the shenanigans. Too often, playgoers don’t recognize these talented, unseen individuals. Kudos to them and to all.