A summer of theatre for Princeton residents didn’t come with broken promises and half-hearted acting. River Road Theatre came to town on the dead run and took Riverside Theatre by storm shaking the new structure to its very core. Thirty-nine Steps is an old play that was brought to life in a unique way by five very talented actors and the end result was really quite amazing.
A novel by Scottish author John Buchan written in 1915 was adapted into an Alfred Hitchcock movie about espionage back in 1935 and then much later in 1997 into a play. After that it received another adaptation in 2005 as a four person show which was the version River Road Theatre presented it their production of The 39 Steps. While the play was a huge undertaking that left the audience sympathetically tired for the four actors and director, its entertainment value was worth the effort.
Local gal Chelsea Turner stayed behind the scenes this time as director while Benjamin Wardle, Marcus Stusek, Heather Motut and Rachel Hart changed characters and costumes so fast it was hard to keep up at times. Their exhaustive efforts to entertain worked their magic as the crowd laughed and watched the mysteries of the story unfold.
Murderers, spies, victims, inspectors and the milkman weaved a tale of crime that had everyone wondering just what were the 39 steps. Rachel Hart went from Russian spy and murder victim to innocent bystander and farm wife with an ease that clearly defined each character. Along with Wardle their scenes were high energy and high pressure. They had many lines to learn in a short period of time and pulled the evening off with true professionalism.
Stusek and Motut played so many roles it was hard to keep up, especially during the train scene. There was truly never a dull moment when they were on stage. Stusek definitely makes a better man than a woman, but played his woman character with great humour. Motut amazed the crowd with her memory as both Mr. Memory and as an actor.
River Road Theatre came to town on a mission and will leave town with our hearts. Their ambitious summer has kept Princeton’s weekends far from dull. With only one more weekend remaining, the question is – If you haven’t seen any of their plays yet, what are you waiting for? One more weekend awaits…