The 39 Steps

by Ben Ellentuck

Calling all Anglophiles*, Alfred Hitchcock fans, and ticket buyers simply in the mood for fun: The 39 Steps is for you! 

Based on the 1935 Hitchcock film of the same title, The 39 Steps chronicles the adventures of Richard Hannay, an innocent man who, like so many other Hitchcock men, is accidentally caught up in a high-stakes international spy game. And yet the play is not a thriller. Well, not first and foremost. Mostly, it is a light-hearted comedy in which four actors play more roles than I can count. 

The actors clearly have their rhythm down. The piece strikes the right tempo—a sprightly allegretto—and is able to maintain it fairly consistently until the very end. If it gets slow, which occasionally does happen, it never stays slow for long. The actors are hams (think Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream), but the play is a play for hams.

Again, this is not a thriller—this is a parody of a thriller. You will not be particularly scared. You will not cry, well, unless you have a habit of crying when watching a comedy. You will perhaps laugh, however. No, scratch that: you will definitely laugh.


The 39 Steps isn’t the world’s funniest evening, but there really is something in it for everyone to enjoy. This fast-paced frolic is pure entertainment. And what better reason to go to the theatre? 

*somebody interested in people from England. 

HOW TO SEE THE SHOW: $26.50 student rush • Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 W. 44th St.

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