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Insanely Funny: "The 39 Steps" Review

I admit it I'm already not used to watching straight plays because this past few years I've been enjoying a lot of musicals.  Maybe because the fact that it is easier to understand because of their simple and often linear approach in story telling.  This could be the reason why most theater companies here in the Philippines choose to stage musicals rather that straight plays.   But one theater company is strong enough to break the conventional.
After the success of The Joy Luck Club last month.  Repertory Philippines is back with another show and once again they are going on the straight play route with the Spy Comedy, "The 39 Steps".   Based on an Alfred Hitchcock Classic, "The 39 Steps" tells a series of unfortunate events that starts when Richard Hannay (Michael Williams) got caught on a murderous predicament.  Hoping to find the solution for his misfortune, Hannay found himself tangled on a wild manhunt by a mysterious organization called "The 39 Steps".  Now armed only with a map, Hannay is forced to embark on a journey to clear his name.   Will he uncover the truth behind the enigmatic alliance or will he end up drench on his own blood?

I was really hesitant to see "The 39 Steps" because though I admit that The Joy Luck Club is quite a good piece of art, still it didn't really left a big impression on me.  So I was thinking, can I still seat for almost 2 hours once again to watch another straight play?  Also the fact that this play is based on a Hitchcock classic, I'm afraid that I won't be able to appreciate it since I'm not a Hitchcock fan.  I never saw any of his film.  Somehow I feel that the material is an elitist taunt to those who are not really that artsy and I'm easily offended by that gesture.  But "The 39 Steps" proved that it is completely the opposite of what I'm thinking about it.

Hannay and Anabella on a very compromising position.

Despite being a mystery thriller, "The 39 Steps" is surprisingly entertaining.  Behind the grotesque and macabre images of death and murder, is a hilarious and insanely funny show that left me laughing out loud until the end.  And as I was enjoying the whole show, I forgot that it is based on a cult classic.   Now, I can say that you don't need to be a Hitchcock fan to love this masterpiece.

Michael Williams as Richard Hannay and Liza Infante as his first role on the show, Annabela Schmidt

Other than having an excellent material, the show also got an incredible lineup of actors.  Starting with the lead, Michael Williams (A Christmas Carol) is one of the greatest director on the local theater scene.  He is known to being a perfectionist up to the point that he became verbatim in terms of script (Master Class).  With that attitude as a "play maker", I know that I will see something extraordinary and as expected he delivers (plus points for stunts).  Liza Infante (South Pacific)  after a long time not doing any acting jobs I'm amazed that she didn't lose her touch.  Playing three characters is not an easy job specially that every one of them are completely different from one another.  Yes the costume helped but Liza's versatility make it more plausible and believable.

the infamous chase scene with Rem and Juliene as cops and Liza as the Blonde Pamela and Michael as Hannay

One thing that makes this show unique is the cast is composed only of 4 actors.  But if you will read the script, it actually have more than that.  Almost a hundred of characters are written all over the script.  As we all know now, Williams plays the lead while Infante played 3.  So that leaves everything else on the hands of the other two actors.  I was blown away by Rem Zamora (Skin Deep) and Juliene Mendoza's (A Journey on C Major) performance.  I think they played at least 50 characters simultaneously.  But despite the tiring job of executing a lot of personalities in split seconds, both actors incredibly maintains energy and momentum all through out the show and most importantly, to stay funny.

Director Ana Abad Santos (The Joy Luck Club) is very proud to share with us that most of the execution on this staging of "The 39 Steps" comes from her.  From the blocking, props and choreography, she can say that this show is different from what have been presented in Broadway or other theater all over the world.   Being a certified Hitchcock fan, Santos had pushed her limits on recreating one of her favorite filmmaker's masterpiece and I love her for that.

I'm very glad that I didn't let go of this opportunity of witnessing a show like "The 39 Steps".  It is a Riot, but in a good way.  Finally, now I know why Alfred Hitchcock is a legend.

"The 39 Steps" is having its final shows this coming weekend on March 18, 19 and 20 at Onstage, Greenbelt 1, Makati City. For tickets, inquiries and other information, call Repertory Philippines at 571-6926 and 571-4941 or email info@repertory.ph. Tickets are also available at Ticketworld at 891-9999.   Get your tickets now.

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