Two farces and Hamlet in the ’70s

Two farces and Hamlet in the ’70s

Just right for spring madness

By Jacqui Theobald

Photo: Chandler Hull as Annabella, Adam Silorey as Richard, David Widder-Varhegyi as Clown 2 and Eric Rasmussen as Clown 1 in “The 39 Steps” at Cedarville

AT CEDARVILLE

Think Alfred Hitchcock plot. Think fast-paced farce. Put them together in the same show. Oxymoron? “The 39 Steps,” opening Thursday, April 3 and running through Sunday, April 13 at Cedarville University, does the seemingly impossible with style and enthusiasm. If it looks a bit like a Monty Python send up, it’s meant to.

Hitchcock made a large cast movie of the mystery adventure in 1935, based on a 1915 novel. Now, four actors play some 100 to 150 characters with quick changes, sometimes playing several people on stage simultaneously. Imagine quick changes and the improbable situations of melodrama.

Director Rebecca Baker can’t help smiling as she describes the action that includes references to well-loved scenes from Hitchcock movies: “Strangers on a Train,” “Rear Window,” “Psycho,” “Vertigo” and “North by Northwest.” Whether those scenes strike one’s memory, the puns – visual and verbal – are delightful. Several trunks lined up end-to-end and a character scrambling across the top equals a chase across the top of a moving train. Believe and laugh out loud.

“The 39 Steps” has enjoyed a 21st century American resurgence, spending over two-and-a-half years in Boston, on Broadway and off-Broadway and winning two Best Comedy awards. The four-actor adaptation was written by Patrick Barlow and premiered in England in 2005.

At Cedarville, Richard is played by Adam Silorey, the only actor who does just one role. Chandler Hull is the only woman; Eric Rasmussen and David Widder-Varhegyi do all the other parts. That means some female characters are done by males, deliberately.

“After Spring Break, everyone is so riotously-busy until the end of the semester,” Baker said, “so a four person play with a fairly short but intense rehearsal time available and an opportunity to relax and just laugh is perfect.”

Still, in a college setting a little learning is not a dangerous thing. Baker makes sure she teaches the principles of farce: repetition, disguise and timing. As a vocal coach, she also teaches various appropriate accents, carefully emphasizing different vowel sounds and pronunciations of Scottish, Irish, German and Cockney characters. Actor Widder-Varhegyi said, “The accents are the most fun and the most challenging to do on stage.”

“The students are having a great time, working hard, laughing and loving the chance to be really creative,” Baker said. “They say it’s as much about agility and athleticism as acting.”

So, get moving. Take 39 steps. Relax and laugh at Cedarville. For tickets and more information, please call 937.766.3437 or visit cedarville.edu/theatre.

HAMLET IN XENIA

“Hamlet” is very popular this season and will now appear at X*ACTS, the community theatre in Xenia, for two weekends: Friday, April 4 through Sunday, April 13. The script is Shakespeare’s, the concept is Director Tony Copper’s; ’70s-style music and action. Here, in his words, is an overview:

“Dig. There was this Hollywood hotshot. He had a wife, a son and a kingdom. Denmark was his realm. He was rich-cat personified. That was, until someone else thought they could make it theirs and iced the Good King. And now his wife has remarried – the King’s brother. And his son … his son is wondering what life’s about and carries the burden of vengeance. And revenge prompted by the ghost of his dead father.”

The entire action of the play takes place in and around Denmark Studios’ 1602 Elsinore Estate, Hollywood, California 91601.

The actors are into it and enthusiastic, especially about a “recently unearthed scene.” Brian Louis is Hamlet; Abby Connor is Ophelia. The whole cast list is available online. No comment from the author, who was too busy whirling and spinning somewhere in Stratford or smiling down on the shenanigans. For tickets or more information, please call 937.372.0516 or visit XeniaActs.org.

MORE FARCE

“A Flea in Her Ear” is at Sinclair Community College, Friday, April 4 through Saturday, April 12.

George Feydeau wrote a sex farce in 1907 and Nelson Sheeley – a multilingual, multitalented director –  translated it from French. Both, perhaps, were laughing all the way. It has been called “The perfect farce: large cast, mistaken assumptions, questionable couple relationships, sexually inviting letters and a few gunshots.”

The cast includes Skyler McNeeley, Katie Beyoglides, David Brandt, Sydney Back, Tray Shelton, Woody Heib, Jonathan Sheehan, Destre Inlow, John Ray, Anna Sheldon, Jessica Zula, Katie Paeg, Kory Copeland and Bill Styles. Join the cast downtown for a pre-show appetizer and cash bar on Thursday, April 10. For Tickets and more information, please call 937.512.2808 or visit Sinclair.edu.

NOMINATIONS OPEN NOW FOR DAYTON THEATRE HALL OF FAME

You can have a hand in suggesting a winner: actors, directors, technical design categories for a Daytony Award – our local version of the highest acknowledgments for theatrical creativity and accomplishment. Please visit daytonys.org or email barbj@daytonys.org for required nomination forms. Two letters of recommendation are also needed. All must be received by May 10, 2014.

NEW PLAYS ANNOUNCED FOR THE HUMAN RACE 2014-15 SEASON 

Six shows, some old some new, all dealing with the human condition with some humor or pathos; seeking connections, facing challenges and finding hope.

Briefly: Thursday, Sept. 4 through Sunday, Sept. 21, “Miracle on South Division Street” by Tom Dudzick; Friday, Oct. 3 through Sunday, Nov. 23, “Mame” – Book by Lawrence and Lee, Music and Lyrics by Herman.

Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 through Sunday, Feb. 8, “Family Shots” By Michael Slade; Thursday, Feb. 12 through Sunday, March 1, “Buyer and Cellar” by Jonathan Tolins; Thursday, April 16 through Sunday, May 3; “Taking Shakespeare” by John Murrell; Thursday, June 11 through Sunday, July 5, “Crowns” by Regina Taylor. For more information, please call 937.461.3823 or visit humanracetheatre.org.

Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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