Many words have been used to describe the works of famed director Alfred Hitchcock, a man known for edge-of-your-seat thrillers like “Psycho” and “The Birds” — but the last one to come to mind is funny.
That’s exactly what the players in CAST’s latest production, “The 39 Steps,” are going for in the comedic farce based on the 1935 movie of the same name. The cinematic plot focuses on a man and woman on the run after a murder takes place following the attempted foiling of a group of spies from discovering classified information. With a cast of only four people, the play becomes a quick-change act with the one female actress playing the role of three women, and two actors filling in every other random part, right down to the furniture.
“It’s a lot of action from very few actors — and sometimes that scares an audience,” said artistic director Kim Dobbs. “But this is uproarious, in my opinion.”
The play also has a romantic entanglement that fits perfectly with CAST’s dinner theater event taking place Valentine’s Day.
“The cleverness of the adaptation should inspire the audience — just really kick their imagination into gear,” Dobbs said.
In playing three women — from Germany, London and Scotland, no less — Haley Long is more than playing to the audience’s imagination.
“It’s been quite the acting challenge,” Long said, but one she has fully embraced. “I find myself at times speaking Scottish when I should be speaking British, but you catch yourself.”
The small cast translates to a more intimate performance for the audience. David Rice plays male lead British spy Richard Hannay — “the only one who gets to be the same language all the time,” Long said. And Glenn Davenport and Mike Crosby play the two clowns. “They’ll be a policeman and then they’ll turn their head and they’ll be a newspaper boy,” she explained. “To watch them and be on stage and not to laugh is quite the challenge.”
The production is being showcased at the Foothills Theater at Buckner Event Center at McClellan, which Long says has a classic, lived-in ambience — “just like you stepped back into 1935.” It’s fitting for the setting and for the sound effects, which are being replicated by an actual person, right down to the train whistle and radio announcer.
Dobbs knew “The 39 Steps” would be a great fit for Anniston after seeing a production at Terrific New Theater in Birmingham in 2012.
“I find that just watching excellence inspires me,” Dobbs said. “It gives me a standard to strive toward.”
And this cast plans to uphold that standard — while leaving the audience in stitches, of course.
“You’re gonna feel like you’re almost a part of the play,” said Long. “It’s gonna be a new adventure for our normal audience.”
CAST will close out their season in April with another movie-turned-comedy, “9-To-5: The Musical.” Auditions will be held Feb. 18 at CAST’s new headquarters at 11th Street and Moore Avenue (old Anniston Waterworks). Call 256-820-2278 for more information.
IF GO YOU…
What: CAST presents “The 39 Steps”
When: Feb. 6-9, 13-16
Where: Foothills Theater (formerly Zannie Theater), 388 Buckner Circle, McClellan
Cost: $15 for adults, $10 students
Info: www.castalabama.com or 256-820-2278