Spinoza debates God in David Ives's The New Jerusalem

Also: The 39 Steps joshes theater and film

The 39 Steps, though a piece of utter fluff, has its little existentialist moment too, when the hero, Richard Hannay (Charles Edwards), sits alone, wondering whether there's any purpose or meaning to his empty life. This, however, is probably just another piece of modernist mockery, like both the rest of the performance and the 1935 Hitchcock film that it simultaneously replays and spoofs. A chance encounter with a woman will soon fill Hannay's empty life with foreign spies, hair's-breadth escapes, handcuffs, love, and everything else from Scottish sheep to music-hall mentalists.

David Ives goes Dutch: The New Jerusalem
photo: Joan Marcus
David Ives goes Dutch: The New Jerusalem

Details

The New Jerusalem
By David Ives
Classic Stage Company
136 East 13th Street
212-352-3101

The 39 Steps
Adapted by Patrick Barlow
From John Buchan's novel and the Alfred Hitchcock film
Roundabout/American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd Street
212-719-1300

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It's all piffle, and what it's doing on a nonprofit theater's roster might usefully raise some eyebrows, but it's harmlessly amusing piffle. As staged by Maria Aitken, Patrick Barlow's adaptation adds a little dimension to the spoofery with two concurrent lines of running gags: helpless-shrug jokes on what film can do that theater can't, and parallel jokes celebrating theater's ability to do more with less. Edwards, his jaw outthrust in an I'm-so-handsome smirk, catches the parodic tone precisely; Jennifer Ferrin, as the women in his life, sometimes overshoots it, probably distracted by the dizzying skill of Arnie Burton and Cliff Saunders, who play everybody else with fiendish facility.

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