The 39 Steps

Christian Clarke (left) is Richard Hannay and Anabella Schmidt is Sarah Jensen in "The 39 Steps," being staged Feb. 21-29 at Weber State University in Ogden. 

OGDEN — We know four college students who’ll be maxing out their Fitbit activity trackers over the next two weekends.

The theater students are featured in “The 39 Steps,” a four-person comedy thriller opening Friday, Feb. 21, at Weber State University. The show plays weekends through Feb. 29, offering what the university describes as a mix between a Hitchcock masterpiece, a juicy spy novel, and Monty Python.

The intrepid cast of just four actors play dozens of characters between them, in a production that play director Tracy Callahan calls nothing less than “controlled chaos.”

“For four people to tell this whole story, they’re on the run constantly — switching in and out of characters and costumes,” Callahan said.

Christian Clarke plays Richard Hannay, a Cary Grant-type leading man. Sarah Jensen plays Annabella/Pamela/Margaret, the three women in Hannay’s life. And Megan McLean and Jacob Stubbs play Clown #1 and Clown #2, respectively, each acting out multiple characters throughout the evening. Good guys. Bad guys. Men, women and children. Even inanimate objects.

“The 39 Steps” is a parody play adapted from a 1935 film by master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock, which in turn was adapted from a 1915 novel by John Buchan. It tells the story of an ordinary man caught up in an extraordinary web of intrigue — all played for laughs.

“This play is sort of an homage to Hitchcock,” Callahan said. “It’s a send-up; a nice, loving, high comedy of his work.”

The whole affair has a nice film noir feel, and the play references many of the movies Hitchcock made over his career, according to Callahan.

“There’s nothing very subtle about the comedy,” she admits with a laugh.

As such, Callahan says “The 39 Steps” is unlike any of the previous plays she’s directed at Weber State.

“It’s just different than anything I’ve ever worked on before,” she said. “This will definitely be a change. But then, who needs drama at this point in the United States, right?”

Callahan says she and the cast have spent quite a bit of time trying to perfect the precise timing and reaction required in slapstick comedy.

“We just have to figure it out, because I haven’t worked on this type of play too much,” she said.

Not that she’s worried they won’t get it.

“It’s not brain surgery, it’s a play,” she said.

Although recommended for ages 8 and older, Callahan says there’s nothing in this play that will be offensive to anyone. It’s a fairly gentle piece in that regard.

“There’s a kiss between lovers,” but nothing beyond that, she said. “Like I said, there’s nothing that’s going to shock anybody.”

The play will be staged in the Browning Center’s intimate Eccles Theater on campus. Tickets are $11 to $13, available through weberstatetickets.com or at 801-626-8500.

“It’s fun. I think audiences will have a good time,” Callahan said. “It’s pretty much pure escapism. And if you know much about Hitchcock it will be a little funnier.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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