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ATI continues it’s 2014-15 season of surprises with The 39 Steps, a show that has been on my list of “must sees” for quite a long time. Am I ever glad it was ATI’s production that I waited to see. Presented at The Studio Theatre at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, under the brilliantly open-minded direction of Richard J. Roberts, with an uber-talented quartet of actors, this outrageous spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film of the same name is a high-energy, hold-no-bars sensation!

Don Farrell, Ian McCabe, Lisa Ermel and Logan Moore star in ATI's "The 39 Steps"

Don Farrell, Ian McCabe, Lisa Ermel and Logan Moore star in ATI’s “The 39 Steps”

Cleverly staged by Mr. Roberts, who directed an innovative My Fair Lady for ATI earlier this season, the show, which was comically adapted from the movie by Patrick Barlow, features the four member cast intently performing 40+ characters. Logan Moore takes the part of Richard Hanney, the hero who must stop the plans of a ring of spies who are trying to steal a cache of secret plans. Moore is movie-idol handsome in his role, and manages to project an elegant 30’s acting style as well a spoofish comedic mannerism, perfectly placing his character throughout the performance. Lisa Ermel is an absolute knockout in her three roles which range from femme fatale to comically put-upon wife to the leading lady character, Pamela. Ms. Ermel’s talent for versatility gets a workout in these 3 widely varied roles, but she pulls them off with ease and balances Moore’s portrayal wonderfully.
Ian McCabe, Lisa Ermel, Don Farrell and Logan Moore take a "car-ride" in a scene from ATI's "The 39 Steps".

Ian McCabe, Lisa Ermel, Don Farrell and Logan Moore take a “car-ride” in a scene from ATI’s “The 39 Steps”.

Don Farrell and Ian McCabe provide the large array of remaining characters with adroit stage work. Literally flying across stage at times, with but a hat to define a change of character in some instances, this hilarious duo runs through their gamut of characterizations with a precise set of voices, accents, facial expressions and body types (wait until you see their two old geezers at a political rally). Their thoroughly dynamic approach to these many roles adds even greater pacing to the rapid action. (I never once saw a bobble or miss-step from either of them as they whirled through their parts.) I can only imagine the controlled mayhem backstage as they accomplish full costume and wig changes in astonishing speeds. It all makes for a very enjoyably fun presentation, full of comic lines and comic bits: the cast was rewarded with lots of applause after scenes and even one rare sustained applause after a particularly clever and well-done bit of comic business. The full house’s standing ovation at the end was more than justified and I am sure it was gratifying to the hard-working actors. This is an actor’s script and they make the most of it.

Nifty technical details abound as well, with excellent costuming and sound design by Amanda K. Bailey and Joe Court, respectively. Bernie Killian’s set design is ingenious and fills the very demanding bill. Erin Meyer’s lights, Katherine Gering’s props and the many wig designs by Daniel Klinger complete the picture. And I must mention the center-stage, all-purpose, scenery screen which itself renders many clever laughs.

I feel that making plans in advance to see this stage gem is a must as it will very likely be a hot ticket! You can find out more about the schedule, which continues through February 15th, and reservations by logging onto http://www.actorstheatreofindiana.org or by calling the reservation number at 317-843-3800. Don’t miss this excellent show!

* Photos by Zach Rosing