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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hitchcock's '39 Steps' soars in Herndon

Emily Levey is Annabella and Pamela and Margaret, and James Finley is Richard Hannay in NextStop's 39 Steps/photo by Rebekah Purcell, VSION

Way out in Herndon, professional theatre? 

Oh, come on! 

Theatregoers, this is for real.  A top-notch production crew and cast.  You'll be awestruck. 

Alfred Hitchcock's 39 Steps is on stage in the inaugural season at Herndon's NextStop Theatre (formerly the Elden Street Players) and whoever thought Hitchcock could be so funny?

I laughed myself silly and that's what it's all about:  entertainment.  Why pay to see a play and go away depressed?  It won't happen here.

Last Friday night almost all 114 seats were taken and now, a ticket discount is available.*

You know the story of 39 Steps, don't you?  It's really not necessary to know it to enjoy this farce, this slapstick of a show which moves so fast your mind will whirl, and this is not to scare any potential theatergoer who may anticipate the plot is too complex a la Shakespeare, but this is Hitchcock and Monty Python rolled into one and quite easy to follow, as long as you don't get dizzy from the nonstop action. Whew.

James Finley plays Richard Hannay, a sophisticated 37-year-old Englishman, a bachelor, who gets caught up in the murder of a new lady acquaintance (who parks herself at his apartment, and away we go).

Four actors portray 140 characters, and you'll be swept away by the fast costume, voice, and mannerism changes, all carried off with deft aplomb.

The leading man (Hannay) is the only character who does not change his person or clothes.  Emily Levey is Annabella/Pamela/Margaret, the new acquaintance, the murder victim who becomes the librarian, the farmer's daughter, and the girl on the train, though not necessarily in that order.  (Who can keep them straight?)

The show stealers are the "everymen," the "clowns" played by Evan Crump and Nick Rose who are hotel operators, policemen, airplane pilots, a Christmas tree, a farmer, train passengers, and a few more.
Evan Crump, left, and Nick Rose play multiple roles in NextStop's 39 Steps.  Is that the McGarrigle or the Bates Hotel?/Photo by Rebekah Purcell, VSION

(You'll blink twice to make sure Rose is not Robin Williams.  Or his first cousin.  Or, was that Crump?)

One of the funniest scenes is when they sit on a train with Hannay and change seats. They move and jerk to the rhythm of the vehicle which soon becomes real enough when a chase ensues on top of and in-between cars.  Oh!  And there is an airplane crash, a leap from a bridge, and a wee bit of sex. With handcuffs.

Before the show starts, you may wonder about the cluttered set but most of the components play a role in the action, and the scene changes so much, the extraneous parts become part of the background, and fade once you become engrossed by the speed.

Evan Hoffmann is NextStop's producing artistic director who directed 39 Steps.  Before the show started, he came out and addressed the audience, unable to contain his enthusiasm and energy, and repeated what he says in the program:  "We are going to work towards the dream of making the Dulles Corridor the future of great theatre in the DC Metropolitan area."  NextStop is well on its way.

The play runs through October 20, but hurry since many productions sell out.  This is too funny to miss.  Why stay home when you can laugh and have fun and support the arts which support more arts? It pays to get out.

Special recognition goes to Stan Harris, the sound designer, assisted by Brian Christiansen.  Those two rigged up so much Hitchcock music, a tally sheet couldn't keep track. Who is old enough to remember Hitchcock's TV show?  It's there, too.  All, synchronized magnificently.

Of note are costuming by Jenny O'Donnell, properties design by Kevin Laughon, and period hair styling by Kat Brais, assisted by Lorraine Magee.

Applause all the way around to cast and crew for a great night at the theatre!

What:  39 Steps

When:  Thursday (7:30 p.m.), Friday (8:00 p.m.), Saturday (8:00 p.m.), and Sunday nights (7:00 p.m.) and Sunday matinees (2:00 p.m.), now through October 20, 2013

Where:  NextStop Theatre, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA 20170 at the Industrial Strength Theatre located in the back right corner of Sunset Business Park, near the intersection of Spring Street/Sunset Hills Road.  Right off the Fairfax County Parkway.

Parking:  Available near the door at no charge

*How much:  Click tickets which start at $25 but a discount of $7 per ticket is available for two or more.  Use the coupon code: GO2NEXTSTOP. Call 866-811-4111 for assistance.

Rating:  G.  Appropriate for all age levels.  "Street talk" Is absent.

For more information:  703-481-5930 or

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