The 39 Steps. This show is uninhibitedly silly — a take-off on a 1930s Hitchcock film, which itself was based on a novel by John Buchan. The plot didn't make much sense in the movie — something to do with an attempt by foreign spies to steal British air defense secrets — and it makes even less sense in this farcical comedy by Patrick Barlow, who takes Hitchcock's signature themes and devices and translates them to the stage, employing four actors to play dozens of parts. The action begins when Richard Hannay, one of those suave Hitchcock heroes, confesses his ennui and decides to go to the movies. Pulled instantly into the world of 1930s film noir, he finds himself in a music hall, watching the act of a puppet-like Mr. Memory. Shots ring out. A beautiful woman with a heavy accent appears. Hannay takes her home and feeds her haddock. She tells him she's in danger and he scoffs, but then she directs him to look out the window. Sure enough, two men are skulking beneath a lamppost. In the morning, the woman staggers out of the bedroom, collapses on top of Hannay and dies — but not before providing a cryptic clue. So now he's on the run, suspected of murder, and also determined to solve the mystery. The actors seem to be having a ball: Everyone's timing is impeccable, and the antics are a hoot. If you're looking for an alternative to serious discussions, step right up to The 39 Steps. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company and extended through November 21. Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed October 7.
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