Clove Creek Dinner Theater’s Production of The 39 Steps Entertains, Sets Bar High
Review By Louisa Vilardi
Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps directed by Teresa Gasparini at Clove Creek Dinner Theater (Fishkill, NY) is an amusingly eccentric comedy for all ages! With a strong ensemble, a beautiful set design (Teresa Gasparini), powerful light and sound designs (Jeff Wilson), and delicious food choices, this is the perfect way to spend your evening or Sunday afternoon.
As two strangers sit next to each other in the famous London Palladium Theater watching the marvelous Mr. Memory delight the audience, a gun is fired and hysteria ensues. As an urgent escape plan, Annabella Schmitt (Messalina Morley) asks if she may join her box seat partner, Richard Hannay (Steven Bendler), in his flat until the frenzy dies down. When she is found with a knife in her back in the early morning hours, Hannay panics before deciding to flee to evade the authorities and takes the audience along for the rousing (and often hilarious) ride.
This comedy is filled with fun and replete with insanity, thrills, clownery, speeding trains, runaway spies and much more. The entertaining ensemble of five actors impress us during the energetic pursuit, as they play over 100 different roles: slipping out of doors, genders, wigs, hats, costumes and a multitude of outstanding, flawless accents. Rounding out the cast are Jeff Sculley, Patrick Spaulding and Brandon Patterson.
Teresa Gasparini’s directorial choices are impressive and creative resulting in a laugh-out-loud physical comedy that does not surrender to the standard slapstick qualities of this kind of show. Gasparini’s choices would thrill Hitchcock himself, including her imaginative accommodations for the space. Her strength lies in creating memorable moments both on and off the stage, as Gasparini notably chose to break the fourth wall to create fun interactive moments with the patrons of Clove Creek Dinner Theater.
Hannay, played by the deft and dashing Steven Bendler, is on the run for most of the play and he makes the chase exciting and enchanting all at the same time. Bendler is stellar in this role and his timing and execution of lines are remarkable and superb. His comedic idiosyncrasies are distinctive, placing audience members on his side as he flees. Hannay is the central thread of this show and Bendler a magnificent backbone for it.
The beautiful Messalina Morley, playing various roles, is in and out of Hannay’s life as different women. Morely charges in full of vigor and is strong in her choices as she distinguishes between all of her characters well, offering each their own comic style. Her performance is fierce and energetic, making her a strong leading lady (or three) in this show.
Jeff Sculley is not afraid to pull out all the stops, and gives an outstanding performance as he switches from character to character and has the audience in fits of laughter. Each of his characters is unique, proving that Sculley is a smart and clever actor who executes with pure glee and technique. He is such a talent and refreshing to watch on stage.
Patrick Spaulding tackles such interesting characters in this show and makes each distinct in his own way. His comedic chemistry with his ensemble members is impressive and adds to the rhythmic pacing of the show. Spaulding has an effortless, wild, energy that has audience members trying to catch their breath.
Brandon Patterson breathes life into this production and is simply hysterical to watch in each of his roles. His choices are marked by precise timing and innovation. Whether it is a change in accents, costumes, wigs or his own gait, Patterson is great in this production, and most of the hilarity in the play is a credit to him.
Want to know what The 39 Steps actually are? You can find the answer at Clove Creek Dinner Theater through May 19, 2019! This high quality production sets the bar high and you don’t want to miss it! Tickets at www.clovecreekdinnertheater.com
Louisa Vilardi is a writer and theater director who lives in New York with her husband and two sons. Her writing has been featured in The Huffington Post, Today Parenting Team, and Scary Mommy. More at www.LouisaVilardi.com