In “The 39 Steps” at The Players Theatre (running from Sept. 30 to Oct. 11), character actors Walter Price and Jeffery Kin take on enough roles for an ensemble of 30.
Walter Price and Jeffery Kin are backstage at The Players Theatre, reviewing their lines and blocking. Donned in armor and makeup, they’re ready to take the stage as vaudeville entertainers in the period comedy, “The 39 Steps.”
For the next two hours, the actors will switch characters hundreds of times, embodying almost every type of person — and object — in the British Empire: innkeepers, airplanes, salesmen — even a pair of mansion doors.
Price and Kin will run the theatrical gauntlet in this fast-moving comedy, in which the supporting roles take center stage. For Kin, the new approach to a secondary character is a welcomed challenge.
“You’re usually the guy who comes in during the middle of the second act as the main character’s friend,” he says. “This is the same thing, but on steroids.”
Written by Patrick Barlow and adapted from the 1915 novel by John Buchanan and 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock, “The 39 Steps” is an exercise in melodramatic comedy and pop-culture hijinks.
Running from Sept. 30 to Oct. 11 at The Players Theatre, the story follows a dashing British everyman, Richard Hannay, who is wrongly accused of murder, then chased by authorities and mysterious forces who want to eliminate him from the equation.
However, instead of an ensemble cast of 30 actors, every role is performed by a cast of just four: Jared Walker as Richard Hannay, Melissa Ingrisano as three damsels and femme fatales and Price and Kin as quite literally everyone and everything else.
“You can’t have any false modesty in this show,” says Price. “The way it’s written and presented, the two of us have a great freedom of literally taking something and running with it to the nth degree.”
The duo’s characters are simply titled Clown #1 and Clown #2, and rehearsals for the show have been something of a comedic marathon. Price and Kin spend, at most, five pages of a script as any single character. The rest of the show’s slapstick chase is spent rapidly switching between characters in real time. In a sort of thespian slight of hand, Price and Kin use body language, accents, facial expressions and a parade of different hats, jackets and wigs to switch between a zoo of British personalities.
“The show goes by so quickly that if something were to go wrong, we don’t have time to try and cover it up,” says Price.
Although the memorization and rehearsal process has been arduous, the duo has learned to rely on each other, the rest of the cast and a healthy dose of laughter to power through.
“It’s going to be one of those shows where the camaraderie we have between the four of us fuels everything,” says Kin. “We’re going for it, and we’re not going to go down until the curtain goes down. And then I’m going to need a drink.”