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Tuesday, March 5

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Theatre Wed May 19 2010

39 Steps: Like Hitchcock Meets Kabuki

I didn't know what to expect when I saw The 39 Steps at the beautiful Bank of America Theater, but I was ready to be entertained. My day was long and busy, and I needed to get my mind off such responsibilities.

So when I saw how silly and goofy it was, I had to adjust my mind's monitor. It seemed that the excellent performers (only four who play over 100 characters) were being smugly self-conscious, as if they were telling the audience and themselves, "Hey look! We're so clever! And we're fle-xi-ble!" And I was getting annoyed. Had I been so undernourished on Broadway that I couldn't recognize or appreciate its aesthetic?

So during the intermission, I got myself together and thought about it. Where had I seen such structured, exaggerated performances that thinly wrap a storyline?

Then it hit me: the stylized, elaborate dramas of Kabuki. I'm sure the producers didn't think to themselves, "Hey, let's take ancient Japanese theater, add a lot of Hitchcock, sprinkle in some contemporary cultural references, and blend it with acrobatics, then serve it up on Monroe Street!" But that's what I kept thinking: the performers' movements were controlled yet exuberant, and they gave us a thick display to approximate scenes and locations and actions that movies and TV achieve with sets, locations, and extras.

So during the second half, I came to appreciate the great acting, humor, and adaptability of the very talented cast. The staging was innovative as they worked with a variety of props, lighting, and poses to create a multi-dimensional story that we really didn't have to analyze, just enjoy as they worked their way through their things and themselves.

Bottom line: if you go, expect to see silly and enjoy the ride. It's in town until May 30.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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