Over the years, I have attended many productions at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in downtown Arlington Heights. The venue serves the Northwest Suburbs with “cabaret”, performing arts and theater, both Musicals and non-musicals. They also play host to special events and late night comedy with troupes such as Second City. When the announcement was first made about this amazing building that would have a nice theater, banquets and classes in dance, music and theater, there was great anticipation. It has not been all that I (and others) had hoped for. There are shining moments, from time to time, but to be honest, I went to tonight’s opening of “The 39 Steps” anticipating an evening of laughs. “The 39 Steps” is an adaptation (Patrick Barlow) of an old Hitchcock classic film. While the film is a mystery, this is a farce (or was meant to be) spoofing the great filmmaker/director Alfred Hitchcock.There are a number of references to the great films by the master of mystery, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, most very cute. The last production in the area was at Drury Lane Oakbrook and was very well executed. There were two productions of this play opening this week-end. I selected this version in Arlington Heights, and another writer that in Muster Indiana at The Theatre at The Center (which I will show for comparison on Monday).
The story is simple. yet complicated. The 1935 film tells the story of a simple man Richard Hannay (played by Edward Fraim) happens to meet a woman at the theater, Ms Annabella Schmidt (played to perfection by Ellen Cribbs, who also plays almost all the other female roles) who as it turns out is a spy in need of help. She goes home with Richard and in the morning is found murdered. Richard is being accused and must flee to find the answers to what she had told him- to find the answer to the 39 steps. As a fugitive on the run, he travels throughout Europe searching for the answers of who did kill Annabella. Along the way he meets all types of characters, some involved and some not played by what the programs calls the CLOWNS- Andrew Pond and Joseph Daniels. These men portray about 90 characters doing all types of physical comedy as well as some incredible juggling and in some cases change characters and costumes right before our very eyes. I was impressed by their ability and the fact that even when some errors (or what seemed to be errors) took place, they maintained their “cool”. Ms Cribbs also does a great job in transforming from one woman to another.
Directed by Daviid Belew, I had the feeling that he bit off more than he could chew. The set (Katie Alvord-Wendling) may have been to massive for this stage making it difficult for the actors to move props and furniture on and off with ease. At Drury Lane, they divided the stage into sections so they could keep the pace at a fast clip, which is what comic farces should do. Once you lose the audience, it is very difficult to get them back. Andy Kauff’s sound appears to work as I heard every line except the muffled ones that came from the audience during one of the “clown” skits. Maybe that was supposed to be that way, but it did not feel as it should have. Chelsea Lynn’s lighting works well and all cues were right on time. Tech is a major part of doing a farcical production. Every second counts, again, in keeping the audience involved in the action. A tighter show might have held the interest of many audience members around me who became restless.
I do want to give a hats off to Tory Helgeson who is credited as the Fight Director. There were some top-notch moments with the action and while I am at special mentions, Andrew Pond did a nice job of working with the dialects. While I see no reason to have the thick accents, it is always nice to have the actors be consistent in doing them. Nice work Andrew! Glad to see you learned how to juggle a bit as well! “The 39 Steps” will continue at The Metropolis Performing Arts Center located at 111 West Campbell Street (downtown Arlington Heights) through April 3rd with performances as follows:
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 7 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $38 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 847-577-2121 or online at www.MetropolisArts.com
There are lots of dining options on Campbell Street and plenty of free parking as well (on the street and in the garage behind the building).
If you have never been to this venue, it is a comfy, bring your drink in with you (they even have beverage holder on the arm rest).
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The 39 Steps” (make sure you select the correct production).