CIU Thespians Present “The 39 Steps”

November 17, 2017

A Review by Michael A. Lanier

I walked into Hoke Auditorium, believing that I already knew what to expect from the CIU Thespians' newest production, The 39 Steps. I was already familiar with the story: the famous Alfred Hitchcock directed the film adaption of the popular novel back in the 1950s, and having seen the movie, I was ready for the suspenseful British tale to come to life on the stage. But what I did not expect was the twist that the Thespians put on this famous story, and that twist was a hearty dose of comedy.

I watched as main character Richard Hannay, played by junior Micah McCoy, became entangled in a tale of spies and murder. After being unexpectedly approached by a female spy, she is murdered right in front of Hannay, but not before giving him just enough information to stop an international crime ring. Hannay, being stuck with the murder victim, is accuse of committing the crime himself, and he must run away from the ever-pursuing police detectives while also involving himself in the secret underground world of spies in order to stop the evil plot that could take down all of Great Britain.

I was very amused, however, to find that only seven actors played upward of 60 or more characters, making very quick costume changes, speaking with entirely different accents, and acting as a completely different person from the one they had just portrayed moments before. Such dynamically different characters played included those portrayed by junior Joseph Knight, who was a cockney bumbling police detective, and only minutes later, a grouchy old Scotsman, and even popping up as a loud Scottish housewife. Likewise, sophomore Caleb Joung could be seen as the quiet, submissive husband to Knight's housewife, later portraying a shaky, slow-moving Scotsman, and a jumpy Scotland Yard police chief.

I was able to talk with junior John Dabeck, president of the Thespians and director of The 39 Steps, and get his thoughts on directing such a demanding show.

“Directing the show was a huge honor,” Dabeck said. “At every turn, when we would have something go wrong, the Lord provided in ways I've never seen before. He grew the talents of the cast in incredible ways, and it was such a joy to get to work with them.”

So what can one expect from the Thespians' production of The 39 Steps? An old-timey atmosphere, lots of British humor, mystery and suspense, and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

“The 39 Steps” is showing in Hoke Auditorium on the CIU campus Nov. 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 19 at 3 p.m.