Interview: The 39 Steps (and Just as Many Characters... and More!) at Lamplighters until Nov. 6
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, October 27, 2022
Adventure and spy mayhem are afoot in mystery-meets-comedy The 39 Steps, directed by Charles M. Peters and running through November 6 at Lamplighters Community Theatre in La Mesa.
Described in show ads as a mixture of a Hitchcock masterpiece, a juicy spy novel, and a dash of Monty Python, this Patrick Barlow parody is based on the 1935 adventure film of the same name. The production, whose cast I had the opportunity to interview, features hero Richard Hannay, played by Eric Trigg, his three love interests captured by Melanie Williams, and two other actors who play every other character in the show (a reputed 150 of them!) tackled by Samantha Hope Goldstein and Christopher Braden.
And, to no surprise, the actors in this show love this chance to play a variety of distinct characters. Melanie Williams shares that a show like this one is all about “finding the balance between authentic and exaggeration.”
Samantha Hope Goldstein, who plays Clown #2, agrees. “The clowns have to “world build” in almost every new scene, and they have only the most basic pieces with which to do so. The results are wonderfully imaginative. I like new theater challenges, and I knew that this would be a technically demanding show, very different than anything I’d done before.” Goldstein says that she has dozens of costume, prop, set, and character changes throughout the show, but the opportunity to “turn on a dime” frees the story to take a pace that is highly creative in nature.
Eric Trigg only plays one role (lead Hannay), but that one role nevertheless navigates through the complex storyline and its many faces. “The biggest challenge for me in this play,” he says, “is the style of play itself. The vaudevillian character changes happen so fast, I cannot help but watch in amazement from the sidelines.”
Sarah Mosby, production stage manager, is also enamored with the technical challenges that present themselves in a show like this one. “It is an inherently fast paced play that moves quickly between many different places. We also are working in a slightly small space, so the choreography of where and when set pieces are moved has been a fun and challenging aspect."
Goldstein adds that, for this show, the setting is key to the mood and the storyline. “It’s not just London - it’s London in 1935, when the country is exhausted from having been through a war and feels the sense of dread that another one is coming… There’s a sense of menace brewing below the surface that bubbles over at times. It deepens the mood of film noir into something historical. But, in addition, most of the setting is just implied, and the story is depicted and advanced with a very “meta” collection of ordinary items, calling attention to the fact that this is a theater piece.”
At its core, she believes, The 39 Steps serves its purpose in “deconstructing the tropes of a classic murder mystery and using that recognizable narrative to invite audiences to laugh at traditional depictions of romance, thrillers, British humor, law enforcement, and much more.”
In that way, smiles and laughter are the ultimate reward, especially coming out of a pandemic drought. Ultimately, Trigg notes, “After all of the work we have put into this production, it's great to know that the audience spent their evening laughing and having a good time.”
The 39 Steps runs through November 6 at Lamplighters Theatre. Tickets are available at lamplighterslamesa.com.