by Nancy Holley
Special KRL coupon code at the end of this article.
The Visalia Players welcomes the New Year with the hilarious farce The 39 Steps. The show is based “loosely” on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The 39 Steps and includes quips, puns, and allusions to other Hitchcock films such as North by North West, Rear Window, Vertigo, and Psycho.
A cast of four creates over 100 characters. Clowns 1 and 2 have the largest burden, portraying all but four roles in a fast paced, zany, costume-character changing romp through the Scottish Highlands.
Richard Hannay, the only role that never changes, is caught in a bizarre plot where everyone seems to be after him – the police because he is suspected of murder and the women because he is charming. Peter McGuire, a Visalia newcomer, is excited to bring Richard to life. McGuire characterizes Richard as “a guy with too much time on his hands who wants to be a suave playboy, but doesn’t have enough money to pull it off.”
The only female in the cast Lindsay Tweed, recently seen as Audrey in the Players’ production of Little Shop of Horrors, plays a variety of women. Tweed “likes getting to flex her acting skills” as an elderly German spy (Annabella), a young Scottish housewife (Margaret), and the femme fatale (Pamela). “Annabella’s thick German accent is a challenge and Margaret’s Scottish rural brogue is fun,” quipped Tweed.
Henry Gonzales, no stranger to theatre in Visalia and Hanford, is having a great time as Clown 1. “Each character is unique. Each has its own demeanor and costume. That is the challenge – to provide the uniqueness that each character deserves.” Gonzales portrays young and old, male and female, good and bad. “One of my favorite characters is Mrs. McGarrigle, an older Scottish Innkeeper. I love this woman’s heart. She’s one of those fun characters you get to play.”
Despite all the characters portrayed by Gonzales, plenty are available for Odran Gilheany as Clown 2. Originally from Ireland, Gilheany has the soft lilt to his voice one might expect, even after 40 years in the U. S. “The play is very well written and challenging to the actors. The quick changes – costumes and characters – keep the play going. A lot happens in a short amount of time.” One character he enjoys is, “Mr. Dunwoody, a dotty, little old Scottish man. He gets confused, but there nothing complicated about him except his age and memory!”
Director Leeni Mitchell loves The 39 Steps. “When I first saw it, I laughed so hard I knew I wanted to do this show. British farce at its best is as good as theatre gets.” Mitchell laughing noted, “It’s such a prop heavy show that it takes lots of help. The backstage crew is three times the size of the cast.”
Everyone involved with the show, cast, crew, and director, emphasized the hilarity and familiarity of the show. Tweed said, “Since I’m only in a few scenes, I do lots of watching. I’ve seen the same scenes dozens of times, and they are still extremely funny.” Gilheany explained, “Anyone who has seen Hitchcock will love it, and anyone who knows nothing about Hitchcock can follow it.”
On Sunday January 18 after the matinee, “Back Stage at the Ice House” will be hosted by Sharon DeCoux, a veteran Visalia Player. Audience members will have an opportunity for a behind the scenes look at the show and the opportunity to ask questions and interact with cast/crew.
The 39 Steps opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 9, 2015 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 1/9, 1/10, 1/16, 1/17, 1/23, and 1/24 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 1/11, 1/18, and 1/25.
For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.
Check out more local theatre reviews this week right here in KRL & even more theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!
To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLTTS in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website.