Legendary entertainers Kenan and Kel made theatrical history when they broke down the fourth wall, and then, to the consternation of the set designer, broke down the second and third walls as well. Experience the magic of the stage with today's Groupon: for $36, you get one select orchestra/front-mezzanine ticket (an $89.50 value) to The 39 Steps at New World Stages, Theater 1 off-Broadway. Now in its third year, the smash comedy- thriller has won two Tony Awards, the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Event, and the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Choose from 24 performances between September 22 and October 17 (see sidebar for details).
Adapted by Patrick Barlow from Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 suspense-fest and the John Buchan novel that inspired it, The 39 Steps more or less follows the plot while spicing it up with exuberant energy and frequent detours into loopy Monty Python-esque territory. As more than 140 characters chase, murder, romance, double-cross, double-chase, triple-cross, and quadruple-murder one another, audiences will be amazed to realize that they're all played by the same four indefatigable actors. John Behlmann spends most of his time playing Richard Hannay, an innocent lad who unwittingly finds himself mired in a conspiracy of assassins, state secrets, and sinister secret societies. Kate MacCluggage plays the spy who loves him while also portraying pretty much everyone else who isn't a man. And you'll believe Jamie Jackson is Man #1; Cameron Folmar similarly shines as Man #2.
Because the Master of Suspense's film springs from a simpler time before sex, human blood, and the letter F were invented, audiences of almost any age will be able to appreciate the fast, frothy frippery of The 39 Steps. If you bring friends or family, you will need to purchase all your tickets in the same transaction in order to be seated together, and be sure to enter the same first and last name for all tickets when prompted at Groupon checkout.
- But the appeal here is ultimately more to theater aficionados than to movie buffs, and you don’t need to have seen the movie to appreciate the accomplishment of the show. [Director Maria] Aitken and company are using their cinematic template to celebrate the art of instant illusion-making that is theater. Much of the show’s pleasure comes from being in on the magician’s tricks even as, on some primitive level, you accept them. – Ben Brantley, New York Times
- The real key to its success, however, is that the thriller element is entirely secondary to the laughs milked from shoestring stagecraft that redefines the term low-tech. – David Rooney, Variety
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