Patrick Barlow’s Farce, “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps,” Now Playing at RLT, Is Not for Everybody

The Raleigh Little Theatre cast for “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” includes (from left) Tony Hefner, Jesse R. Gephart, Staci Sabarsky, and Del Flack (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)
The Raleigh Little Theatre cast for “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” includes (from left) Tony Hefner, Jesse R. Gephart, Staci Sabarsky, and Del Flack (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

Any fan of the 1935 film The 39 Steps or any Alfred Hitchcock devotee should be positively delighted with Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of the play by the same name. Others, however, will likely be lost, bored, and a little overwhelmed with this excessively silly and frenzied comedy. The show follows Richard Hannay (Jesse Gephart) on a misadventure that begins when he meets a secretive woman, Annabella (Staci Sabarsky) at a theatre. He allows her to stay in his home overnight, wakes up to find that she has been murdered, and then spends the rest of the play on the run and falling into one blunder after another.

Though the beginning of the show is intriguing, things quickly go downhill. After the first six or seven “comedic” mishaps, the production turns into one long, confusing blur with the same jokes being repeated over and over again and Hitchcock references being thrown in haphazardly. While most audience members wait patiently for the ending, which seems to never come, many at Sunday’s matinee did not return after the intermission, and it’s hard to blame them.

To be fair, the small cast (which the script calls for) gives it their all. Gephart is characteristically funny and goofy, making him perfect for his singular role. The rest of the cast, however, juggles multiple roles. Sabarsky is sometimes charming and fun to watch, taking turns as characters Annabella, Margaret, and Pamela, but her unclear accents and often-flat delivery could stand some work. Tony Hefner and Del Flack add some much needed humor (the kind that’s actually funny!) in their constantly-changing “clown” roles.

While there are likely a few people out there who will get their kicks with this show and find it uproariously funny, most will wish they’d sat this one out. It is simply too outdated, too over-the-top, and just too silly for modern viewers.

SECOND OPINION: Oct. 17th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Glenn McDonald (who awarded the show 3.5 out of 5 stars):; Oct. 16th Raleigh, NC Raleigh review by Larissa Mount:; and Oct. 15th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Jessie Dresser: (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Triangle Theater Review’s Oct. 12th preview by Robert W. McDowell, click

Raleigh Little Theatre presents ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S THE 39 STEPS at 8 p.m. Oct. 25-27 and 3 p.m. Oct. 28 in the Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.

TICKETS: $20 ($16 students and seniors 62+).

BOX OFFICE: 919/821-3111 or





NOTE: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows.


The Book (background): (Wikipedia).

The Book (text): (e-text from Project Gutenberg) and (audio recording by

The Film: (Turner Classic Movies), (Wikipedia), and (Internet Movie Database).

The Play: (official website), (Broadway website), (Wikipedia), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and (Internet Broadway Database).

Study Guide: Pack_2010.pdf (The Mousetrap Foundation).

The Playwright: (Wikipedia), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and (Internet Broadway Database).

The Director: (Facebook).

By Susie Potter

Susie Potter is a 2009 graduate of Meredith College where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina Statue University. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. For more information visit