A classic thriller is transformed into the madcap comedy “The 39 Steps” at the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville in Oceano. Adapted by Patrick Barlow in 2005, the play is based on the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock.
Artistic director Dan Schultz and musical director Sarah Wussow work with a talented cast to create this fast-paced thriller packed with intrigue, murder, and betrayal. The cast consists of only four actors who hilariously play multiple characters.
Bored with his mundane life, Richard Hannay (Jeff Salsbury) meets Annabella (Katie Worley), a mysterious woman with a foreign accent who claims to be a spy. After she is murdered in his London apartment, Richard travels to Scotland to find her killer and expose a secret plot to steal British military secrets.
Meanwhile, Richard is being pursued by an underground spy organization called the 39 Steps, and the police, who think he killed Annabella.
During his adventure, Richard meets a myriad of zany characters including Scottish farmers, warm-hearted innkeepers, mysterious scientists, clueless politicians and even bleating sheep. He survives police chases, dangerous villains and gunshots.
At one point, the police handcuff Richard to a suspected accomplice, Pamela (also played by Worley), who ultimately betrays him.
At the center of this screwball comedy are two versatile actors.
Billy Breed and Travis Mitchell — the latter making his Melodrama debut — play many of the crazy characters with amazing comic timing and robust physical humor.
Salsbury is charming and funny as the handsome hero, Richard. Worley plays Annabella, Pamela and Margaret — another woman Richard meets during his travels — with boundless energy and great style.
Costume designer Renee Van Niel provides clever outfits and inventive wigs to meet the need for lightning-fast costume changes.
Scenic designer Brian Williams skillfully creates several different sets depicting 1930s England and Scotland.
Stage manager Jessica Morgan coordinates an ambitious number of scene and prop changes, which complement the show’s high energy. The lighting design is by Peter Leibold, and the sound designer is Elisabeth Weidner.
Following “The 39 Steps” is “The Board Game Vaudeville Revue,” in which the Melodrama takes a humorous look at board games. It is directed by Schultz, with musical direction by Wussow and choreography by Leah Kolb.
Using contemporary and classic songs such as Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and the Eagles’ “Desperado,” the revue uses music and dance in a variety of skits that take aim at popular board games such as Monopoly, Operation and Pictionary. The highlight of the show comes when Salsbury and Worley play the Spartan Cheerleaders — the characters made famous by Will Farrell and Cheryl Oteri on “Saturday Night Live” — at a chess tournament.
“The 39 Steps” continues the traditional Melodrama brand of storytelling with lots of comedic twists and turns against a backdrop of spirited adventure.
“The 39 Steps”
2 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday; through March 6
Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, 1863 Front St., Oceano
$19 to $25
805-489-2499 or www.americanmelodrama.com