Small cast makes “The 39 Steps” a big success


Hannay (Tyler Hughes) reacts to his decription on the radio

Whether it’s “James Bond,” “Mission Impossible,” or “Jason Bourne,” there is no shortage of stories about spies or secret agents. However, the NNHS Fine Arts performance of “The 39 Steps” provided a refreshing twist on the genre last weekend.

Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The 39 Steps” features a comedic telling on a tale of adventure and mystery. It begins when an ordinary man named Hannay (Tyler Hughes) accidentally gets involved in the murder of an agent, and he must try to unravel the secrets the agent left behind- while also being chased by the authorities. Through meeting various characters, from an intimidating professor to an old Irish couple, Hannay races against his pursuers to find who is behind “The 39 Steps.” The production was brought to life on stage from Mar. 10-12 and was directed by Andy Simon with help from producer Nathan Warwick.

As the story progressed throughout Europe, the most noticeable features of the play were the various accents. Some were difficult to understand and distracting at times. On the other hand, it added an element of atmosphere that clearly depicted the change in location or scenery.

My personal favorite aspect of the play was definitely the humor. Whether it was a quick one-liner or a comically lengthy scene, the jokes were perfectly timed and delivered. The plot also did not shy away from turning serious to advance some of the more romantic encounters. Hannay and another character named Pamela developed an odd affection for one another after a rocky start to their relationship. However, these scenes could become slightly dull and uneventful, greatly shrouded by the quick comedy that followed. Though there was no doubt the audience was entertained by the vibrant minor characters.

“The 39 Steps” had a cast of only 13 students who had to play over 30 characters. The actors and actresses did an incredible job of switching between the diverse characters. This was assisted by beautiful costumes that matched the location and era thanks to costume director Susan Love. The small cast contributed to a production unlike any other. It’s not everyday you see a shaky old man leave the stage, only to return as a private investigator. In one scene, an actor and actress remained on stage while switching between three different characters, shown by many different hats for each personality.

Behind-the-scenes work did not go unnoticed. The play utilized a full-sized bed, theater seating three levels high, moving doors, full dining sets, and much more. Technical director Joshua Jansen and the rest of the crew were able to make the scene transitions smooth and speedy, keeping the audience entertained.

The 13 students performed “The 39 Steps” with theatrical chemistry. Rather than separate characters interacting, the cast displayed intricate relationships and used their roles to work as one community. Putting on an entertaining show isn’t a “Mission Impossible” for the NNHS Fine Arts Program.

Photo Slider by Jacob de Waard