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Sierra Rep takes on Hitchcock's '39 Steps' with recycling cast
Few plays recycle a handful of actors in and out of so many versatile roles as in Sierra Repertory Theatre's "The 39 Steps." The end result of using four players in dozens of roles in the stage adaptation of the early classic Alfred Hitchcock film is light-hearted stage filled with unexpected comedic approaches.

The Tony Award-winning comedy plays at SRT's East Sonora stage through July 1.

The cloak and dagger play involves the adventures of mild-mannered hero Richard Hannay who is plunged into a maze of murder, romance and intrigue in pre-war London. Hannay (played by Toby Miller) wanders out for an evening at the music hall and finds himself suddenly entangled with a mysterious young woman with a desperate secret that could decide the fate of Europe. When she's murdered in his flat, he's yanked into a mysterious world of spies and double agents. Falsely accused, he is chased from trains through the British country side as he tries to clear his name and save his country from a sinister plot.

While multi-character players Jim Shine, David Thornton and Laura Cable do a good job as quick change artists, switching accents and voices with parts, it is Thornton is who masterfully pulls off the demanding differences in his obtuse characters. Count on antics of Shine - who exaggerates roles ofs several women for laughter - to keep things interesting too.

Cable is convincing in her roles but her thick accent trips her words at times.

The scene changes with minimal props are quick and clever and keep things interesting. The audience visits a railroad station, country inn, lake side and inside the mansion Alt Na Shellach, which yields surprises Hannay didn't quite anticipate in this slightly off-the-wall farce.

The audience is quick to laugh during the use of cutouts on wires to cast shadows on a silk screen behind the actors. Yes, the bi-plane gunning for Hannay in one farcical scene is stolen from a scene in another Hitchcock thriller, North by Northwest.

One Modestan in the opening night crowd who rarely attends community theater smiled during the play and commented that "it was cute."

We'll give SRT the benefit of the doubt that future performances will be accomplished in a cooler venue. If the air conditioning unit was working you couldn't tell from those fanning themselves with programs. In all fairness, temperatures had hit 99 in the foothills that afternoon.

The 39 Steps is worth the drive and an evening of laughs. Shows are offered Thursday and Friday begin at 7, Saturday evening performances are at 8 and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees begin at 2. Ticket prices range from $24 to $30. The show is rated PG, appropriate for all audiences ages 10 and up.

For more information or reservations, call Sierra Rep's box office at 532-3120, visit