We can all use a good laugh right about now and the four main performers plus one understudy in The 39 Steps at the Chemainus Theatre are prepared to deliver.
Running from April 22 to May 22, the 39 Steps is the first full play in more than two years at the theatre since the Marvelous Wonderettes was abruptly halted before its conclusion in 2020 due to the arrival of the COVID pandemic.
“With all the drama in our daily lives, we think the hilarious romp The 39 Steps is a perfect tonic to momentarily escape the current state of world affairs and rediscover the world of live theatre,” noted managing director Randy Huber.
“Physical theatre and its comic potential have been a personal passion for quite some time,” added artistic director Mark DuMez. “Putting together this show is a laughter exercise.”
The show stars Aidan deSalaiz as Richard Hannay, Alexandra Brynn as Pamela/Annabelle/Margaret, Caitlin Driscoll as Clown 1, Felix LeBlanc as Clown 2 and understudy Stephen Thakker in roles as Hannay, Clown 1 and 2.
“Hannay is caught in the middle of a wild plot,” explains DuMez. “All the characters he meets, played by this fine company of comics, support his getting to the bottom of the mystery. We watch tumbles and transformations through it and fill in the blanks with our imaginations.”
There may be only a handful of actors in the play, but they combine to play countless different characters.
The two female cast members both have Island connections. Brynn is from Nanaimo and Driscoll was born in Victoria before moving to Ontario at a young age.
Brynn, 30, always dreamt of performing at the Chemainus Theatre and here she is.
“I’ve been seeing shows at Chemainus since I was a little kid,” she said. “I’m kind of coming back to my hometown theatre.
“It feels really nice. My parents are really excited. I’m staying with them at the moment.”
Acting, Brynn added, “it’s always been in my blood. My parents, they don’t understand what I do, but they’re proud nonetheless. I started community theatre when I was seven years old.”
Brynn went to drama school in Montreal to obtain a Masters in acting and later spent three years in the United Kingdom.
She was also stationed in Toronto for three years and recently finished a run with Peter Pan Goes Wrong at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton.
Brynn is excited about performing in The 39 Steps.
“It’s a comedy which I think is very much needed after the pandemic and watching everything going on in the world right now,” she said.
Brynn plays three different characters, utilizing three wigs and making very quick changes. “That adds to the comedy,” she confided.
“It’s based on the Hitchcock film which is not really a comedy. Everybody knows the classic. We add the absurdity level to the whole thing.”
Unlike Brynn’s three costume changes into all-female roles, Driscoll says she portrays “upwards of 10” characters and all but two are male.
“I tend to do shows where I play multiple characters,” she said. “That’s what I love to do.”
Changing characters so frequently requires a special talent. Due to Driscoll’s stature, it also required fitting her into a boy’s size suit.
“This has been my first job in about three years,” Driscoll indicated. “I wake up every morning and I’m so grateful.
“To do comedy, it’s perfect timing. I hope people will find it light and fun, as I am finding it.”
Driscoll went to Ontario at the age of seven and still lives in Toronto now. Her mom recently moved back to this area and Driscoll had a chance to visit Chemainus.
“I saw the theatre and I said I want to work here,” she said. “It’s beautiful here. I love the murals. For me, it’s super cool to have that come true.”