"39 Steps" at Market House Theatre
The Market House Theatre’s new play, “39 Steps,” is a fast-paced thriller. So fast, in fact, that it’s almost like a workout.
“The first act always leaves me out of breath,” said actor Fowler Black. “There are these chases and frenzied escapes. I am constantly running.”
“39 Steps” is based on an Alfred Hitchcock movie and tells the story of Richard Hannay, who gets entangled in an international plot to steal secrets. The stage adaptation involves a little something for everyone, including comedy and romance.
“There is just so much suspense,” said director Michael Cochran. “It’s so creative, from changing scenery in a matter of minutes to simulating chases. There’s even some laughs that help move the play along.”
The play only features four actors — Black playing the lead as Richard Hannay, Heather Tomko, Roy Hensel and Landon Baker. There are over 140 characters in the piece, with Black being the only constant. Characters switch clothes and mannerisms instantly, sometimes only by adding a new hat or prop.
“Being the only constant on stage, and watching and receiving that action is incredible,” Black said. “It wasn’t so much that I had to get used to it, it was that the other actors had too get used to changing themselves. They were experimenting with different voices, their transitions. It was a lot of fun but very, very tough for everyone to get used to.”
Black has been a leading man in plenty of Market House plays — from the “Wizard of Oz” to “Putnam County Spelling Bee,” and “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” However, “39 Steps” allows Black to show off a different side of himself, a side that belongs in the early 1900s.
“The time period is just romantic onto itself,” Black said. “It’s easy to like this plan because of the history and the mystery and the comedy that has a dash of Month Python in it.”
Cochran said that during auditions, he looked to find actors with a strong physical presence, who could change their entire personas in a split second. His choices left him with a strong cast and a story that is sure to keep an audience on its toes.
“The broad acting makes the play more fun,” Cochran said. “It’s so theatrical that people will really be able to appreciate all of the talent on stage.”