It helps to be an Alfred Hitchcock fan to enjoy The 39 Steps, a theatrical riff on the 1935 movie in which four characters play something like 150 characters.
"It's the movie script, done on stage with a bit of a vaudevillian spin. Very clever, very fast and very funny,'' says Eric Hissom, who is directing the play (adapted by Patrick Barlow from the movie and the John Buchan novel) for Florida Studio Theatre. Witty references to other Hitchcock thrillers, like Rear Window, Psycho and North by Northwest, also fly fast and furious.
The 39 Steps, which won two Tony Awards and had a long Broadway run, is the most-produced play at regional theaters around the country this season. The FST cast includes Michael Frederic, Letitia Lange, Sheffield Chastain and Curran Connor. The play opens Friday and runs through Feb. 20 at the Gompertz Theatre, 1241 N Palm Ave., Sarasota. $19-$34. There is a preview at 8 tonight. (941) 366-9000; floridastudiotheatre.org.
John Fleming, Times performing arts critic