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Jim Helsinger, seen here directing The Merry Wives of Windsor, is taking on The 39 Steps at Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

Courtesy of Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Hitchcock, From Screen to Stage

The 39 Steps, the classic cinematic thriller, is now a play with an emphasis on laughter. By Jay Boyar

When Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps premiered in 1935, the movie was hailed as a triumph of both “cold horror” and “slyly incongruous wit.”

A stage adaptation, which opened on Broadway a couple of years back, is much the same, and yet also quite different. It closely follows the movie’s plot and, like the screen version, aims to be both suspenseful and comic. But if Hitchcock tended to emphasize thrills, the play, by Patrick Barlow, comes down strongly on the side of laughter.

“It’s a parody of the movie,” says Jim Helsinger, who is directing this month’s Orlando Shakespeare Theater production of the play, “and also of that whole genre” of spy thrillers.

At the center of The 39 Steps is Richard Hannay, a man of leisure in England, who suddenly finds himself drawn into a fast-paced world of cops and spies, shootings and stabbings, narrow escapes and stolen kisses.

What helps to account for the play’s comic tone is its ingenious attempts to reproduce the film’s numerous locations and characters with deliberately bare-bones scenery and only four actors.

“It’s the type of fun we had when we were kids,” says Helsinger. “It’s the fun of play.” He adds that the production will also contain amusing references to many Hitchcock films and that, at one point, “a little silhouette of Hitchcock will go by.”

At another point in the story, Hannay and his love interest find themselves handcuffed together. It is said that during rehearsals Hitchcock handcuffed his stars (Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll) and then left with the key, purportedly to help them get into their roles.

“I was thinking of handcuffing them [the local actors] for the entire rehearsal process,” says Helsinger with a laugh, “but I decided that maybe wasn’t the best thing to do.”

Sept. 15-Oct. 10. Wednesday-Thursday 7 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m. $20-$34. Friday-Saturday 8 p.m. $26-$38. Margeson Theater, Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St. 407-447-1700.


Fine Feathers

September 10-March 31 Why is the peacock the symbol of Winter Park? Why do you see so many of those colorful birds there? And why does peacock imagery appear in the art of Louis Comfort Tiffany? Discover the answer to these and many of your other peacock-centric questions in Fine Feathers: How the Peacock Came to Winter Park.

Free. Winter Park Historical Association Museum, 200 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-647-2330.




Hips ’n Kicks

SEPTEMBER 28 A barefoot beauty with swiveling hips and a strong, shimmering voice, Shakira has made an international name for herself with such hits as “Underneath Your Clothes,” “Hips Don’t Lie” and this year’s official World Cup song, “Waka, Waka (This Time for Africa).” This month, she’s bringing her act to town as part of a 44-city tour to promote her latest album, She Wolf. “I began to research folk [music] from other countries, looking for new influences that allowed me to combine electronics with world sounds, tambourines, clarinets, Oriental and Hindu music, dancehall, etc.,” the Grammy-winning Colombian singer/songwriter has said of her latest album. Sounds like she’s got it covered.

8 p.m. $68.50-$148.50. Amway Arena, 600 W. Amelia St. 407-849-2020.


Mix of Metaphors

SEPTEMBER 11-DECEMBER 23 Comic books, comic strips, storybooks and graphic novels aren’t the only the places you’ll find a blend of text and illustration. Beginning this month, Robert Motherwell and Jasper Johns: Poetic Works as Metaphor, at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, will showcase artwork that each of these artists created in response to the work of a writer. Johns, the prominent Pop artist, was responding to essays written by Samuel Beckett of Waiting for Godot fame. Motherwell, a major Abstract Expressionist, created works that take off from a single poem, “El Negro Motherwell,” written by Rafael Alberti and dedicated to the artist. The show will feature 31 Johns etchings and 19 Motherwell lithographs, none of which, to our knowledge, include the Dark Night or Snoopy.

$5. Rollins College campus, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park, 407-646-2526.


Give Peace (Films) a Chance

SEPTEMBER 21-26 Global peace: What’s not to like, right? And since 2003, that ideal has been a goal of the Global Peace Film Festival. The festival’s films, which deal with that theme and related ones in a variety of ways, are a means to that end. And this year, there will be about 40 of them shown at the event. In addition, there will be an associated street fair and pet parade (both on Sept. 19), panel discussions and other assorted peaceable pastimes.

$5-$8 individual; $25, $99 and $199 festival passes. Films screened at venues including Rollins College, Plaza Cinema Café, the Orlando Science Center and the Winter Park Library. 407-224-6625.

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