PSU Theatre is presenting “39 Steps,” a play that has been described as a comedic spy-thriller.
“39 Steps’ is originally a 1915 spy novel; it has some international intrigue. It was liberally adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in his 1935 film. It really set the template for kind of spy thrillers from then on out. A lot of of the tropes and cliches that you see in all spy thrillers are in the 39 Steps,” said director Gil Cooper. “It’s a spy thriller but these two guys had the idea to ‘what if you only did it with four actors’ the movie has over 150-200 characters. Playwright Patrick Barlow boiled it down to about 40 different characters and said okay, we have forty, we’re going to have four actors.”
The production has only four actors taking on a variety of roles.
“As a result, it’s a spy thriller, but it has a comedy element because you’re squeezing so much. There’s no way to flip around characters in a realistic situation. That’s movie magic, theater is magic is a different magic. It’s kind of going, ‘Hey you’re along for the ride.’ The two characters who play the majority of the characters have to switch back in rapid fire back and forth fired succession. They play about eight different characters, and sometimes they only have one line before they have to switch to the other,” said Cooper.
The students have been rehearsing for five weeks to prepare for the show.
“It’s been really interesting, the process,” Cooper said. “The actors came in working on understanding the lines, where the humor would be and then the challenge has been implementing all of the logistical elements. If you count light cues, sound cues, projection cues, there’s almost 300 cues in the show. Which is a huge number. On top of that we have about 15 or 16 set pieces that constantly have to be moved in and out. And then I couldn’t even tell you how many props and costume pieces we have.”
For the actors, they described it in a similar way.
“It’s been stressful. It’s a very complicated show and it has a lot of moving parts to it but with a competent team and competent actors it’s seems to be going pretty smoothly,” said Matthew Parrott junior in communication.
The actors are directly involved with the audience.
“It’s not going to have the traditional, ‘here’s the fourth wall.’ We recognize the play from the very first moment and both from a directing, script, and acting standpoint. We go in and out of the fourth wall,” said Cooper.
Those interested in the show can go to performances on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. through Feb. 27 at 2:30 in the Dotty and Bill Miller theater at the Bicknell Center.
“I’m really looking forward to the visual jokes of like throwing a mattress down and people jumping on that or people sprinting around the entire theater. Those are things that I haven’t had in too many plays that I’m really excited to see them,” said Maddison Correll, sophomore in nursing.