‘The 39 Steps’ is must-see theatre for all who like to laugh

‘The 39 Steps’ at the Hilberry Theatre

Rating: 5 Stars

By Patty Nolan of The Examiner

The funniest play you are likely to see this spring traces its unlikely origins to the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The 39 Steps.” This Hilberry Theatre production – the season finale – should be mandatory viewing for anyone wishing to understand either the mechanics of comedy or the essentials of theatrical storytelling.

Michael Phillip Thomas and Brandy Joe Plambeck in 'The 39 Steps'

Michael Phillip Thomas and Brandy Joe Plambeck in ‘The 39 Steps’

Hitchcock based his thriller on a novel by John Buchan and reset it in pre-WWII Britain to leverage the imminent Nazi threat as a dramatic device. Playwright Patrick Barlow discovered comic alchemy by rendering the Hitchcock film, scene by scene, as a manic theatrical parody staring four hardworking actors. The hero is Richard Hannay, featuring Michael Manocchhio as the blasé Brit with a flair heroism and hilarious side patter with the audience. The Woman, played by Bevin Bell-Hall, is a brilliant send up of Hollywood’s best female stereotypes – the seductress, the innocent ingénue, and the good-hearted farm girl – in this case, one with a decidedly Scottish accent. All of the other roles are played by the two “Clowns” – Brandy Joe Plambeck and Michael Phillip Thomas – who flip characters, costumes and accents faster than IHOP pancakes, and with even similar variety. As the play reaches its climax and the chase sequences demand a larger cast of characters, Plambeck and Thomas are required to portray multiple roles within a single scene; the frantic costume changes and clever devices that make this possible give this farce its breathless charm.

Read the full review here: http://exm.nr/1J2snWj

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Hilberry has a ball with a zany Restoration comedy

By John Monaghan, Special to the Detroit Free Press. Read the full article on the Free Press website, here.

From left: Sarah Hawkins Moan, Annie Keris, Santino Craven and Bevin Bell-Hall in Hilberry Theatre’s production of “The Way of the World.” (Photo: Bruce Giffin)

From left: Sarah Hawkins Moan, Annie Keris, Santino Craven and Bevin Bell-Hall in Hilberry Theatre’s production of “The Way of the World.”
(Photo: Bruce Giffin)

With so many local theater companies adopting a less-is-more policy of doing shows that call for just one or two actors and minimal sets, it’s a treat to take in Hilberry Theatre’s production of “The Way of the World.” The Restoration-era comedy by William Congreve, first performed in 1700, offers lavish settings, two intermissions and enough witty banter to fill another three plays.

With that said, the play can be a bit of a challenge, especially when keeping track of the complicated plot. At its core, “World” is about putting one over on vain dowager Lady Wishfort (Bevin Bell-Hall), whose blessing is required if Mirabell (Kyle Mitchell Johnson) and Millamant (Annie Keris), her niece, are going to marry. They are linked by an unconventional (you might even say unromantic) view of romance.

What follows is an elaborate scheme that involves friends, relatives and servants whose names are nearly as absurd as their characters. Some, like the servants Foible and Waitwell (Devri Chism and Michael Phillip Thomas), are in on the plan, while others have private agendas.

Read the full article on the Free Press website, here.

Contact John Monaghan: madjohn@earthlink.net

‘The Way of the World’

Three stars

out of four stars

In repertory through March 7

Hilberry Theatre

4743 Cass, Detroit

313-577-2972

www.hilberry.com

$21-$31

Production will be recorded for posterity

Despite its standing as a textbook example of Restoration comedy, “The Way of the World” has no recorded representation at the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive in New York City. That will be corrected when cameras roll during one of the final performances of the Hilberry production in early March.

“I can’t remember if we contacted them or they contacted us,” says Maxwell Bolton, marketing manager at the Hilberry, Wayne State University’s graduate theater program. “But they didn’t have the play in their collection, probably because it is so rarely performed.”

Bolton says a three-camera setup will be used to capture the William Congreve comedy. Once it’s edited, the production will be available for viewing by appointment at the archive in Lincoln Center. The program, a part of the New York Public Library, has been recording significant theatrical works, including full performances and artist interviews, since 1970.

“We’re obviously proud of the show,” says Bolton, “and even more proud that it will soon be a part of theater history.”