Inspired by the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name, The 39 Steps has to be the most maniacal play ever devised. Perhaps the funniest and most jaw dropping scene is a chase across the top of a speeding train. This little bit of theatre magic is achieved with four trunks and an equal number of actors who are clearly out of their gourds, taking their lives in their hands nevertheless. And then there is the fun, the hilarity. So much, and with a hundred costume changes, there’s hardly time to catch your breath. Bring oxygen if you are an inveterate laughter.
Each fall Shakespeare and Company challenges Mother Nature to a duel. Outside, it’s the gorgeous changing of the leaves, while inside there’s the annual changing of the costumes in the Bernstein Theatre where the months of September and October see the annual testing of the actors.
Long after the leaves have dropped from the trees, dozens of blouses, top hats and wigs will be getting their moment in the spotlight before they’re gone in a swirl of color and fabric. The actors often have less than a second or two to change. For this lucky quartet, it is like running a marathon every night. Some theatre is mentally challenging, but this sort of farce is the most demanding – physically – of all. Of course audiences in the Berkshires have learned not to worry about the funny stuff, Tony Simotes and his company specialize in it.