The 39 Steps – Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, PA
February 2, 2016
Review by: Eden Halterman of Academy of the New Church
A dashing hero, accused of murder, runs for his life across the Scottish countryside, followed by a pair of deadly secret agents. Though this may seem like the premise for a classic film noir thriller, it is instead the setting of Barrack Hebrew Academy’s hilarious production of The 39 Steps.
The story of The 39 Steps began as a 1915 novel, and was adapted into the classic Alfred Hitchcock film in 1935. Though the play production, adapted in 2005 by Patrick Barlow, shares the same characters and plot as the Hitchcock adaptation, its resemblances stop there, with this production instead filled with parodies of film noir tropes and farcical humor. The 39 Steps follows the adventures of down-on-his-luck hero Richard Hannay as he attempts to clear his name after being accused of murder.
This entirely student-run production of The 39 Steps, performed by the students of Barrack Hebrew Academy, was driven to success by the creativity, energy, and comedic talents of the cast and crew.
Noah Feinberg led the show with his portrayal of accidental hero Richard Hannay, contributing to the production’s successes with his constant energy and humorous rapport. Feinberg also showed impressive chemistry with his trio of love interests, played by Ruthie Davis (Anabella Schmidt), Ruthie Cohen (Margaret McTyte), and Sophia Ostroff (Pamela Edwards). The three women also impressed with their own energy and acting talents.
The play’s unique use of a small ensemble cast playing a plethora of characters added to the hilarity and energy of the production. The three-man ensemble of “Clowns,” played by Daniel Nahamo, Charlie Gottlieb, and Max Weinstein, maintained their roles throughout each character change, even when their parts ranged from a vengeful German professor, to a pair of bumbling secret agents, to a set of inanimate objects.
The show could not have succeeded without the creativity and hard-working determination of its student director, David Treatman, who worked assiduously to design and create sets, costumes, lighting, and sound for this performance. Treatman’s variety of creative decisions, ranging from his use of a pink spotlight to suggest romance, to the incorporation of modern sound bites for added comedy, and even to the use of actors as set pieces and props, were well thought out and carefully designed, enhancing the originality and humor of the production.
Barrack Hebrew Academy’s creative, unique, and uproariously funny production of The 39 Steps had the audience in stitches from the opening curtain to the final bows.
Review by: Anna Kramer of Agnes Irwin School.
In a faded green velour armchair, a young man sits in suit, tie, and clearly artificial mustache, posed with pipe and drink in hand as he addresses the audience with comedic grandeur. In a few quick moments, Richard Hannay (Noah Feinberg)draws laughs as he explains the predicament of his terribly British, terribly dull, and terribly mysterious life in Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy’s production of The 39 Steps.
Written by Patrick Barlow in 2005, the theatrical adaptation of The 39 Steps is based on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie and John Buchan’s book of the same name. Thriller turned noir parody, the play tells the story of Richard Hannay’s accidental escapades as he ventures into the world of espionage to clear his name of murder and capture a villain attempting to steal secrets from Great Britain. Along the way, Hannay meets Pamela Edwards, his future wife, although the two duke it out in a few laugh-out-loud misunderstandings before they manage to find their one true love.
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy’s production of The 39 Steps was anchored by the intimate six-member ensemble’s energy and topped with the masterful comic choices of student director David Treatman. With extraordinary commitment and verve, the six-person cast managed to create more than one hundred memorable characters, morphing personality, accent, and bearing so frequently and with such dedication that the individual actors themselves were unrecognizable.
Stealing the show with the slightly awkward hallmark of old-school English swagger, Noah Feinberg, as Richard Hannay, commanded the spotlight with his absurd dedication to murder and espionage. Sophia Ostroff, as Pamela Edwards, played every tit for his tat, moving from kiss to hatred and back again in seconds.
Max Weinstein and Charlie Gottlieb as Clowns 2 and 3, respectively, had their comic timing down to an art. Gottlieb’s heavily accented Mrs. McGarrigle made cross-dressing the highlight of the night, while Daniel Nahamo, as the Crofter, and Ruthie Cohen, as Margaret McTyte, added their own share of laughs to the general mayhem.
David Treatman’s direction meshed the ensemble’s energy, talent, and commitment into a precisely and artfully designed comedic masterpiece. Lights, costumes, and a barrage of creative sound effects added the finishing touches to a show designed to provoke two hours of laughter, not a line or movement out of place.
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy’s production of The 39 Steps was a high-energy rip-roaring parody at its utmost, physically dynamic and designed to make you laugh until you cry.
Review by: Jane Mentzinger of Westtown School.
What do you get when you cross Monty Python with Mission Impossible? Answer: Barrack Hebrew Academy’s madcap murder mayhem, The 39 Steps. With a mix of stabbings, shootings, spies, and, surprisingly, clowns, the slapstick parody was nonstop hilarity.
The 39 Steps, a play written by Patrick Barlow, spoofs and pays homage to the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name. In the original play, four actors play over a hundred roles. Barrack Hebrew expanded the cast to seven actors to accommodate a large talent base, but kept the basic, quick-change idea. The show tells the story of a man trying to save England from spies while being framed for murder, and the chaos that ensues.
Barrack Hebrew Academy’s show was fast-paced, beautifully executed, and side-splittingly funny. Characters were switching at the drop of a hat (literally). The few minor mishaps, like signs falling and doors almost crushing actors, only added to the hilarity and showed how skilled the actors were in staying in character. Director David Treatman, a JBHA senior, did a masterful job directing the show. He spent over a year working on this production, and his dedication and passion resulted in a polished, professional- quality show that perfectly showcased his actors.
Noah Feinberg, only a freshman, delighted in his portrayal of the wavy-haired, blue-eyed, six-foot-tall (wink, wink) hero. His physical comedy was spot on and his droll delivery elicited guffaws.
The clown ensemble stole the show, playing a myriad of characters, sometimes even two at once. Max Weinstein and Charlie Gottlieb worked off each other with impeccable timing and comedic prowess. During the train scene, which only used a couple of trunks as a set, Weinstein and Gottlieb used their physicality to create the uncanny illusion that they were on a moving train. Daniel Nahamo channeled the natural world with his convincing rendition of foliage, and he did great work in human roles as well.
The sound effects were numerous and brilliant. Treatman, with astonishing creativity, even used a box of macaroni to make train sounds, and they were totally realistic. Stefanie Gorson-Marrow designed the graphics for the posters, banners, and programs, and her work captured the essence of the show’s minimalistic, sly humor.
Created entirely by students, Barrack Hebrew’s production of The 39 Steps was fantastic. Remember you are just steps away (39 to be exact) from an evening of zany fun.