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Repertory Philippines' The 39 Steps

I was too young to remember Alfred Hitchcock's fame or too girly then to enjoy Monty Python. But I love theater, so I was excited to watch Repertory Philippines' second production for its 74th Season. And I took with me the laugh quota expectations I had when they previewed it late last year.

It was an "unconventional" kind of theater at first, seeing the characters (and not MIB: Men In Black) move their own sets and props. But the way they do it in character kind of adds to the comedy, really, so it wasn't off. The whole play uses a mix of movie and theater direction, as if the audience was served Hitchcock and Monty Python tossed in a salad. The lights (flickering lights to suggest slow-motion action) and sound design (upped echo to suggest a spooky mansion) also contributed largely to how the story reaches out to its audience. Special mention to the use of shadow play for select scenes which gave the re-staging of this classic a pinch of Pinoy creativity.

Did Pinoys invent shadow plays?
Answer in 10 seconds. Timer starts now.

The four actors did a lovely and an obviously veteran (which here does not mean "old" but "experienced") take on their roles. They really looked like they were having fun acting. To switch from one character to another, one accent to the next, one costume change after another and another, I believe only seasoned actors can seamlessly pull off. Rem Zamora, Juliene Mendoza, Liza Infante-Robinson, and Michael Williams (he played one character; he was good, too) all did. Hats off to the "clowns" Rem and Juliene, who played the bulk of the characters I'm at a loss to count.

We are not old—this red phone booth is. And it's Photoshop again, duh.

I know not of the book or movie but I know I laughed out loud a lot. The first half's quick pace wouldn't bore any type of audience. Difficulty deciphering dialogue under thick accents or not being a fan of whodunit plots—you'll still laugh out loud. But when the love angle was heavily played in the second part, I found it dragging the upbeat suspense plot. It's a whodunit thing first and foremost, not a who-ends-up-with-him thing.

Repertory Philippines' The 39 Steps gets a seven-point-eight out of ten, for having great actors but still not being able to sustain my LOLs.

*photos from vintersections.com, courtesy of Repertory Philippines


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