Stage preview: 'The 39 Steps' serves up comedy and mystery
May 20, 2016 12:00 AM
Photo by Archie Carpenter
Luke Halferty, left, and Quinn Patrick Shannon play dozens of roles as the Clowns in CLO Cabaret's "The 39 Steps."
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It has been 81 years since Alfred Hitchcock introduced the spy thriller “The 39 Steps” and a decade since it morphed into a stage adaption as a comedic homage to “The Master of Suspense.”
The CLO Cabaret production of the four-actor play at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown, introduces leading man Allan Snyder as Richard Hannay, an everyman caught up in espionage, and Penn State grad Megan Pickrell as his leading lady plus two other characters.
For the dozens of other characters, send in the Clowns: Luke Halferty and Quinn Patrick Shannon.
‘The 39 Steps’
Where: CLO Cabaret at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown.
When: Through Aug. 14. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday (1 p.m matinees June 23, July 28 and Aug. 11); 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $36.75-$54.75; CLOCabaret.com or 412-456-6666.
Mr. Halferty is fresh off three months starring in CLO Cabaret’s “First Date” to another three months there with “The 39 Steps.” Mr. Shannon is settling down for a little while after appearing in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s “Guys & Dolls” and a couple of Pittsburgh Musical Theater productions.
“The 39 Steps” is a cleverly constructed show, a sort of Monty Python meets Hitchcock, with references to many of the filmmakers’ works. It is said the Clowns play 150 roles, although the pair hasn’t counted.
“Maybe later, when we can brag about it,” Mr. Halferty said, laughing. He also likened their task to “playing with Lincoln Logs during an earthquake.”
It helps that director Guy Stroman is a steadying influence, both men said.
“He stays cool and trusts everyone,” Mr. Shannon said. “He has an easy way of teaching us this dance, because it is a dance. It’s choreography, is what it is.”
This is the first time the two Point Park University graduates are working together, although they have a lot in common. Mr. Halferty, who graduated last year, is a Gene Kelly Award winner out of Central Catholic High School. Mr. Shannon, of Bishop Canevin High, began a long association with Pittsburgh Musical Theater in 1991 with his first acting role, as the first Tiny Tim in “A Lyrical Christmas Carol.”
Now 31 and with a baby face that makes him seem years younger, Mr. Shannon and the bearded Mr. Halferty have formed a team for “The 39 Steps.”
“It starts with broad strokes,” Mr. Shannon said of preparing to play everything from a child to a bog. “I wasn’t terribly familiar with a Scottish dialect, and we use it a lot in this show. I thought to myself, ‘I’ll just watch “Shrek” and go from there.’ For me, I learn by ear, so I need to listen to voices.”
“If you take it character by character, scene by scene, and give yourself time to spend with each one, you will find their idiosyncracies,” Mr. Halferty said.
In “First Date,” Mr. Halferty played the leading man while other actors filled a handful of roles.
“It’s such a different beast,” he said. “They were also speaking American vernacular. But it is very funny that I was in that show being one guy the whole time, wearing the same suit and just walking around the stage.”
His new partner in comedy, Mr. Shannon, jumped in to defend him.
“Allan, he never leaves the stage, and when he does, he is grabbing something to help with the transitions,” Mr. Shannon said. “Really, the show is all about four actors creating this hour-and-40-minute world in London and in Scotland. And it doesn’t stop.”
Sharon Ebeson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_pg.
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