Can I just start this one off by saying OH MY GOD THE GLADSTONE ISN’T CONDOS!!!
*phew* Sorry about that. But, man, I was SURE the Gladstone would be fucking condos by now. You know? After those dreadful, lingering months of idleness, just sitting, just WAITING…And have I ever actually made official mention here just how grateful I am that the double-whammy flim-flammery of Seven Thirty Productions and Plosive Productions managed to jolt the venerable Gladstone Theatre back to life, Frankenstein-stylee? Because grateful I am, kids, and if you’re a theatre buff in O-town, you should be too. As it turns out, pretty much everything upcoming on the Gladstone schedule I’m excited about, and none more so than the debut show of the new season. Fitting that veteran troupe 730 got the nod to start things off, and in honest-to-gosh Hitchcockian fashion to boot.
A Patrick Barlow adaptation of John Buchan’s classic novel (and, of course, subject of one of Al Hitchcock’s most famous movies), THE 39 STEPS is a classic old-school spy drama about regular guy Richard Hannay (CRUSH IMPROV’s Al Connors, throwing himself into his pencil moustache with relish) as he gets drawn reluctantly into a twisting maze of hidden identity, stolen secrets, and a good old fashioned murder to start things off. Or rather, it WOULD be a classic spy drama, except the gang at 730 have gone and given it a silly and delightful twist, with founder and director John P.Kelly channelling the Zucker Brothers to turn Buchan’s sordid potboiler into a zany romp, and now that I’ve seen it, I’m very glad they did.
Rounding out the enormous cast are three other people…superstar Kate Smith, who hops splendidly between three roles, every bit as convincing and marvellous a femme fatale as kept Scottish housewife or fiery, unwitting accomplice (she and Al together are ALWAYS great on stage, no matter which role she’s in). And then there’s the unstoppable tag-team of Richard Gelinas and Zach Counsil, playing…well, might be easier to list what they DON’T play. They emerge as clowning jacks-of-all-roles, zipping from costume to costume, prop to prop, appearing as oddball mentalists, bumbling policemen, dotty housewives and sinister spies, but mostly and surely most importantly, never missing an opportunity to mock the Scottish (sorry, Scotland…but you’re used to it by now, right..?). It’s comic wonderment to behold, and they wring every laugh to be had out of the script, as well as mad wizard John Doucet’s versatile, piecemeal set. Joy.
I think this is the show I was waiting to see…a great, draw-you-in piece of theatrical gold, with all local talent, that just whets your appetite for more. And to both 730 Productions AND the Gladstone, I can say mission accomplished. I’m ready for more.
Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)
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