The Breckenridge Backstage Theatre presents “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” today through Aug. 18 at the theater in Breckenridge.
“‘The 39 Steps’ is a movie Alfred Hitchcock did in 1935, one of the first in the film noir genre, with a spy subplot and a suspense plot,” said Michael Grittner, the show’s director. “The movie was based on a novel written in 1905.”
The show features the talents of four actors, Nathan Bock, Kevin Lowry, Owen Niland and Julia Owen, who play all of the characters in the play.
“As you can imagine, it’s become a comedy instead of a suspense like the movie was,” Grittner said. “It’s suspenseful, but it’s done in a comic manner.”
The play contains a lot of the same moments of the Hitchcock film, Grittner said, but two of the actors, labeled as the clowns, play all of the different men and women whom the main character encounters.
“The fourth one is a female character, and she plays a spy and a love interest and a farmers’ wife,” Grittner said.
‘39 Steps’ for 39th anniversary
Chris Willard, artistic director of the Backstage Theatre, chose to present “The 39 Steps” in part because of its popularity across the country and internationally but also to celebrate the 39th anniversary of the Backstage.
“It makes it fun because it is Hitchcock, and anytime you work on a piece that’s from a master, it’s always fun,” Grittner said. “There are references to his other films, in comic ways and in moments. It’s fun in the genre that it plays in, that noir style of acting, and that also it’s a comedy and we can play with that noir style and tweak it with the comic bits with the characters within that style.”
Grittner said the show will appeal to people who recognize Hitchcock, but the audience doesn’t necessarily have to be familiar with the filmmaker’s work to get all of the jokes and bits.
“It plays to all ages, and that’s why it’s so popular,” he said. “Some of the younger kids, the jokes will go over their heads, but it really has a wide appeal.”
Grittner has a special connection to the show hearkening back to his younger days when he and his friends would get together and make Super 8 Keystone Cop-style movies, complete with spies and other classic noir themes.
“I kind of got my comic timing from working with that when I was younger and hearken back to those moments and the style of the play,” he said. “But it’s really been an ensemble rehearsal process, where people are bringing ideas about the comedy and bits and gags that we can include. It plays all the way through the piece, so it’s a really entertaining evening.
It’s perfect for this space, and the fact that it’s intimate and the actors are closer makes it more accessible to everybody and more fun.”