Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects scores another winner!

I promised I would do a mid-week entry on the latest Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects production of John Buchan's The 39 Steps, which opened March 12th at the Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre in downtown St. Catharines. I was unable to attend the opening, so we went this past Saturday evening, March 19th, and joined an almost capacity-crowd audience for the show.

If you love farce, or even just a great, rollicking comedy, this production will be right up your alley. Oh sure, it bears only a passing resemblance to the Alfred Hitchcock film, also based on Buchan's novel of many years ago in terms of structure, but the story remains relatively intact and this stage adaptation by Patrick Barlow is a heck of a lot more fun to watch. The two-time Tony award-winning play sees four performers spinning through over 150 characters in about two hours of fast-paced comedy that director Kelly Daniels calls a "theatrical fest of sight and sound."

The story, such as it is, revolves around Richard Hannay, trying to bust out of a bit of a funk by going to a live theatre show featuring a magical man with an amazing memory for facts. From there, Hannay is joined by a mysterious woman on the run who asks to stay at his apartment for a bit. She doesn't last long, of course, taking the secret she holds with her. It's up to Hannay to solve the mystery while being pursued by seedy types as well as the authorities regarding the death of a woman in his London flat. I can't give away any more than that, but suffice it to say the numerous twists and turns in the story make for much discussion at intermission, and laughter during the course of the show.

The four performers are all first rate, beginning with Jason Cadieux, no stranger to the Lyndesfarne stage, as Richard Hannay, who sports dashing good looks and very precise comic timing. The ladies he finds himself associated with at various times in the play, all portrayed by the Shaw Festival's Jenny L. Wright, are just over-the-top enough to add that extra comic dimension to the mix. But it is the second half of the cast, known in the programme simply as "Clown 1" and "Clown 2", who really make the play take flight. Playing about 100 or so characters between them, Jon Osbaldeston and Lorne Kennedy from the Shaw Festival both execute their myriad of character and costume changes with razor-thin precision. How they manage to keep it all together for the entire show is almost too much to fathom, but they do, and it makes for wonderful comic moments throughout the show.

The 39 Steps manages to break lots of social and theatrical rules with wild abandon, beginning with Lorne and Jon appearing in some scenes with black tie and tails, which anyone who watches old Fred Astaire movies knows is a definite no-no. White tie with tails, of course, but these two provincial dolts portrayed by Jon and Lorne obviously don't know any better. But they know how to get a laugh.

Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects' production of The 39 Steps continues through to this weekend at the Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre, and good seats should still be available. For tickets, call the box office at 905-938-1222, or go to to book online.

After the show, incidentally, we walked down James Street to St. Paul and stopped in to the newly-opened Dani's Bistro, where the old Cask 22 wine bar used to be, for an after-theatre meal, and were very impressed. The food is very well-priced, well presented, and the service and decor are both first-rate. I would recommend Dani's Bistro either before or after the show this weekend!

March 23rd, 2011.

1 comment:

David L Rattigan said...

It bears more than a passing resemblance to the Hitchcock film -- it's practically word for word, with gags thrown in. I haven't seen the Lyndesfarne production, but I saw the original West End show in London, and it's great fun. Not sure I'll make it to the show this weekend, but I'm sure it's a blast.