New York

High Thames: Part I


Oh my stars and garters: The 39 Steps

Inaugurated my theatergoing week with a performance of The 39 Steps, adapted by Patrick Barlow from John Buchan’s novel and directed by Maria Aitken. First a word about its theater, the Criterion. It seems inconceivable that Piccadilly Circus could house such a cozy stage. Almost doll-sized, it’s a comfortable clamor of mauve, rose, and white–lots of scalloped detail and plush seats with worn nap. And they sold Maltesers at the interval, which is really all I need for perfect joy.

As to the play itself, I’d like very much to see it transfer to our fair shores. At its best inspired and at its worst enjoyably silly, it offers both a spoofy and accurate portrayal of John Buchan’s novel and the Hitchcock film it spawned. Performed by four actors, it makes great use of hats, coats, shadow puppets, and the occasional dummy in order to get the dozens of role played (credit Maria Aitken’s sprightly direction).

And a quick note as to All About the Hamiltons, British style (which means all about the five-pound notes and is a much greater challenge) had a lovely bowl of Vietnamese rice noodles before the show. Vegetables and spicing, how I ahd missed you in Germany.

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