Cumberland Times-News


October 21, 2012

We’re fortunate to have the Cumberland Theatre in our city

As the Cumberland Theatre celebrates its 25 years in the community, we should remind ourselves how lucky we are to have such a treasure in our midst.

No better way than to attend a performance of its current production of “The 39 Steps.” Having taken in a recent show, I fully intend to return at least once more, this time, hopefully, with friends.

What a delight, and not at all what one might expect if familiar with John Buchan’s classic counter-spy novel, set largely in the highlands of Scotland.

This version is an unapologetic spoof of Buchan’s masterpiece of suspense, first filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935. It is a “take-off,” alternately witty and zany, not only of the original, but of others of the ilk.

There is the familiar mixture of suspense, surprise and dare-devil action, but all of it tongue in cheek and with a generous dose of music-hall goofiness. If you are a John Cleese fan, enough said.

This production absolutely dazzles. Friday night the audience, with their spontaneous rounds of applause and outbursts of sidesplitting laughter, confirmed my own reactions. And what a tour de force!

Four multi-talented actors play more than 30 times that number of parts. I, as a linguist, found their mastery of regional and social class British accents — with sudden departures into German — really impressive, especially when used for comic effect.

The lightening-fast costume and hair — and gender — changes alone are astounding. The set, within the necessary confines of the theater’s small and open stage, is ingenious, the use of a scrim with silhouettes on sticks is funny in itself.

The pace is unrelentingly brisk, the contortions and “gymnastics” unbelievable.

Performances run through Oct. 28 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call 301-759-4990.

Robert Riggs



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