From horror to hilarity: The 39 Steps promises laughs

Etta Brooks

If you enjoy slapstick comedy performed by a talented cast with strong chemistry, come see “The 39 Steps” on the Mainstage. It is interactive, adventurous and creative. The show parodies prominent historical spy thrillers, and is based specifically on the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The 39 Steps” (1935).

One of the main aspects of the show is that it is very comical, which is a distinct difference from the source material. The original film is a classic spy thriller, while the stage play is much more light-hearted and silly.

“If you want to just have a good comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then I think this might be the show for you,” William Crouch, senior, said. Crouch plays the role of Richard Hannay, a confident man with a transatlantic accent and love for women and mystery. 

In the play, Richard Hannay is vacationing in London when he witnesses the murder of a woman in his apartment. She was a member of an international spy ring, and Hannay must try to unravel the mystery of the “39 steps” she mentions while evading the police, who suspect him of murder. Hijinks ensue as all other caricature-like roles are played by a small cast who are constantly running around, delivering lines in various European and American accents with silly mannerisms. 

Jeff Coussens, professor of theatre arts and director of “The 39 Steps,” said that this is the right time to have such a performance at Augustana. COVID has caused distress and, for the first time, masks are only restricted to classrooms. A good way to celebrate is to laugh and enjoy a cheerful moment.  

“I think the fact that we seem to be on the other side of COVID-19 requirements and being able to remove our masks is a cause for celebration. Comedy is, I think, a very appropriate way to spend an evening the post COVID period here,” Coussens said.

Four cast members perform for the duration of the show, but there are more than 100 roles played by these four cast members. Will Crouch, Aidan Lenehan, Roger Pavey and Sarah Walton have taken on this high-intensity play.

“The three cast members that I’m working with are so talented, and they bring so much to every single character. They do a really great job of being able to tell them apart, and everyone leans into the 1930s very well,” junior Sarah Walton said.

According to Coussens, one of the factors that made this show unique is that it makes use of both cinematic and theatrical techniques. 

“It tells the story of ‘The 39 Steps’ using projections and video,” Coussens said. “It can kind of combine cinema and theater and novel in interesting ways. So if you’re interested at all in film or theater, it’s kind of a must see.”

According to Walton, the show is interactive because as the character takes the mysterious and adventitious journey, the audience too could be very much involved in the process of trying to figure it out with them. 

Augustana students can come see the show March 10-12 at 7:30pm and March 13 at 1:30pm.

From its horror inspiration to its air of my mystery and comedic delivery, this show promises a fun night.

“This is just great escapist entertainment,” Coussens said.