Playhouse Reunites Cast for Hitchcock Spoof ‘The 39 Steps’
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – “The 39 Steps” will open this weekend at The Youngstown Playhouse with a cast that reunites most of the cast from the theater’s 2012 production of the same show.
Johnny Pecano is directing the play, which is a spoof of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.
It will run for six performances over two consecutive weekends, June 16-25, on the main stage.
The cast of the 2012 production – which marked the last time the Playhouse presented the play – was John Cox, Candace DiLullo, Jason Green and Rob Morris. Cox, DiLullo and Green are returning for the upcoming production, with Jeanine Rees handling the fourth role. Morris could not reprise his role as he no longer lives in the area.
“The 39 Steps” follows everyman Richard Hannay (Cox), who meets a frightened Annabella Smith (DiLullo), who turns out to be a spy.
Hannay brings her to his home, but she is soon murdered and he soon finds that a shadowy organization known as The 39 Steps is hot on his trail.
The Playhouse’s 2012 production of the show was directed by the late David Jendre, who was an icon at the South Side theater.
Pecano, who was the technical assistant and sound designer on the 2012 production, explained his motives for helming the current one.
“We all had such a fun time working on the show previously that – with some public encouragement – we decided to do it again,” he said. “Plus, it’s a nice tribute to David Jendre. We are doing the show his way, as he directed it the first time.”
The new production will even look pretty much the same.
“We actually had some of [the set pieces] still around, and I recreated the rest, so it’s basically all the same,” Pecano said.
In addition to Pecano, the current creative team includes Caitlyn N. Santiago, stage manager; Wayne Bonner III, movement coordinator; and Leslie Brown, light and scenic designer.
A lifelong fan of Hitchcock films, Pecano said doing a fast-paced spoof of one of the mystery master’s works is a natural fit for him.
“Plus, I use a lot of Bernard Herrmann’s original scoring from the film, and he is one of my favorite film and TV composers, so that’s a nice bonus,” Pecano said.
The director stressed that prior knowledge of the Hitchcock film is not a prerequisite for enjoying the stage comedy.
“You really don’t have to know anything about Hitchcock to enjoy this play,” Pecano said. “A few one-line references won’t land, but it’s still a fun time – which is really all it’s about. Younger people will like the slapstick humor, and older people will pick up on the references. It’s just a silly spoof of spy movies and Hitchcock, so it’s accessible to pretty much everyone.”
As sound designer on the prior production, Pecano created about 150 sound cues – including short segments of the original score – and they all remain intact in the current production.
“There are lots of visual and timing cues,” Pecano said. “I ran the sound effects [for the 2012 production] and am running them again this time. … It’s my favorite thing to do. Going back and finding little slivers of Hermann’s score that work in this show was an absolute joy for me, although extremely tedious.”
Tickets for “The 39 Steps” range from $17 to $27 (plus applicable fees) and can be purchased by calling 330 788 8739, or in person at The DeYor Performing Arts Center box office, downtown. Tickets can also be purchased at youngstownplayhouse.org.
Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.