It might not be a bad idea to dig up a DVD of Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1935 spy thriller The 39 Steps before going to the latest Jobsite Theater production. Or even read the John Buchan novel on which the movie is based, because Patrick Barlow's comic stage adaptation is loaded with frivolous inside references toward its sources, as well as allusions to Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much and other Hitchcock films.
Anyone with a taste for late-night TV movies will know the elements of the story: Mr. Memory, the music hall performer with a photographic memory; Richard Hannay, the young man accidentally involved in murder and espionage; Pamela, the classic Hitchcock blond Hannay meets on the train from London to Edinburgh; the Scottish farmer's prayer book that stops a bullet; and the mystery of the 39 steps.
But you don't really have to know the movie or the book to enjoy the stage version of The 39 Steps, which is mainly intended to be a celebration of theatrical imagination in the spirt of The Mystery of Irma Vep. The Broadway production won a couple of Tony Awards and ran for 771 performances.
For Jobsite, Matt Lunsford is the innocent man on the run; Amy Gray plays the three women with whom he gets involved; and in a quick-change workout, Spencer Meyers and Brian Shea play more than 100 characters. Katrina Stevenson directed and designed the costumes.
The 39 Steps opens tonight and runs through Feb. 5 at the Shimberg Playhouse of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. $24.50. (813) 229-7827; strazcenter.org.
John Fleming, Times performing arts critic