SONORA -- If you can't get enough of classic black-and-white movies and the elegant performers and witty banter that come with them, you won't want to miss Sierra Repertory Theatre's "The 39 Steps."
Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan, the show is a lovingly humorous tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 spy thriller of the same name. It's got glamour, glitz and a dramatic soundtrack that piles on the emotion at every tense moment.
It's the kind of show in which everybody is impeccably dressed and unfailingly polite, no matter what dangers are on the horizon. Bad guys reveal themselves by their evil or mocking laughter and everyone smokes constantly.
As directed and designed by Dennis Jones, this is a cleverly staged production. Using minimal sets and props, he effectively creates sets that convey a railway station, the Scottish moors and London.
It's especially fun to see how he uses shadow puppets to convey a marching band, dancers at a party and an airplane.
Toby Miller is dashing, if a bit too old for the part, as Richard Hannay, a 37-year-old bored British bachelor who gets caught up with an international spy ring. He seems comfortable with the era and looks as if he could easily fit into a Hitchcock film thanks to Scott Anderson's slick costumes.
Laura Cable nearly steals the show as three young women who cross his path. First, she is a mysterious Eastern European spy who looks a bit like Greta Garbo, then she is a smart, no-nonsense blonde and finally she is a country girl haplessly married to a much older man.
The dozens of remaining parts, from police to hotel owners to spies, are played by Jim Shine and David Thornton, tellingly listed in the program as clowns. They quickly change characters by putting on different hats, wigs or clothes and changing their accents. They intentionally overact in all their roles to get laughs, but by the end of the show some of their antics begin to get repetitive.
Audience response on opening night Friday was more muted than it should have been because it was uncomfortably warm inside the theater. Earlier in the day, the temperature was near 100 degrees. "This would be so much more enjoyable if it wasn't hot," said one audience member behind me as she fanned herself with her program.
Hopefully the theater will get the air conditioning fixed and the heat inside the theater will be limited to the chemistry between Miller and Cable.
Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan Renner can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2313.
SIERRA REPERTORY THEATRE'S 'THE 39 STEPS'
WHERE: Sierra Repertory Theatre, 13891 Mono Way, Sonora
WHEN: Through July 1; 2 p.m. Wednesdays, 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours 15 minutes, including intermission
INFORMATION: (209) 532-3120 or www.sierrarep.org
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