Alfred Hitchcock fans have already had the chance this year to relish two staged works closely associated with the legendary director; the Jungle Theater opened its season with Dial M for Murder while the Guthrie welcomed The Birds to its Dowling Studio. But whereas both productions emphasized the original source material over the cinematic treatment, Bloomington Civic Theatre is taking farcical aim directly at Hitchcock's stout silhouette with The 39 Steps. Gleefully subverting the 1935 film (and the original 1915 novel by John Buchan), playwright Patrick Barlow's comic adaptation is essentially a prolonged chase wherein the hapless hero dodges dastardly villains and skeptical police, searching for exonerating evidence while simultaneously falling head-over-heels for the woman literally handcuffed to him. The play's outlandish verve is further amplified by the sheer audacity of using only four performers to portray over 150 characters. With the Guthrie having staged a smashing production of the work as recently as 2010, Bloomington Civic Theater has a high bar to clear. Thankfully, the cast features the impressive quartet of Eric Webster, Emma Gochberg, David Gangler, and Sam Landman. And although it might not have the resources of the Guthrie, this production holds an incalculable asset in director Zach Curtis, one of local theater's most inexhaustibly inventive talents. Much like The 39th Steps' wrongfully accused protagonist, audiences can anticipate a thrilling run.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: March 16. Continues through April 7, 2012