HITCHCOCK ON STEROIDS: tHE 39 STEPS
Let's get this part out of the way first: This is a crazy plot.
The 39 Steps, a spy thriller immortalized by Alfred Hitchcock and later turned into a stage comedy, is going to stay at least 39 steps ahead of you. Well, maybe just two or three — but enough to keep you on the edge of your seat and often laughing, if the folks at American Stage have anything to say about it.
The transformation from movie to stage and from intricate spy story to multiple layers of comedy is a "pastiche of the film, transformed for theater in a lovingly mocking way," says American Stage producing artistic director Stephanie Gularte, also directing the show.
No one has quite nailed down the number of characters in the story — there are just too many — but it's upwards of 150, divided among four actors.
Oh, and Jed Peterson, who plays the necessarily nervous Richard Hannay (because sometimes paranoids have real enemies), gets to play only himself. His co-star and love interests (plural) is Juliana Davis Ditmyer, who plays three roles.
That leaves the other however many divided between two "clowns," who sometimes perform as multiple characters simultaneously.
"We've got English characters in scenes with Scottish characters," says Joey Panek, one of the clowns. "Male and female characters in the same scene talking to each other — all played by one actor."
The staging promises to be fun, all grayscale at first like a black-and-white film. But bits of color begin to make their way in, sometimes designed by costumer Catherine Cann or scenic designer Jerid Fox.
"It's a way of embracing the idea that theater can't be contained in just two dimensions on a flat screen," Gularte says. "This color is kind of what theater does. It kind of pops out the vibrancy of it."
Set in pre-World War II Europe, the plot entails spies and counter spies, cryptic allusions (of which "39 steps" is one), Chaplinesque chases, a traveling lingerie salesman and hidden maps that might get Richard out of a terrible jam.
"The play brings the audience into the actors' process of telling the story," says Gularte, "including the hilarious obstacles and challenges they face. The lunacy of this process keeps the story constantly engaging."
The 39 Steps starts at 8 p.m. Friday and runs through Dec. 13 at American Stage Theatre Company, 163 Third Street N, St. Petersburg. $28-$49. (727) 823-7529. americanstage.org.
"WHAT'S WRONG WITH PEOPLE?": SEBASTIAN MANISCALCO
He rails about people who clog the line at a Subway sandwich shop, predatory kiosks at the mall, the way other people drive. For those reasons and his unassuming delivery, Sebastian Maniscalco is a hero to those of us who schlep through life putting up with aggravations we usually keep to ourselves.
"Everywhere I go, there's a problem," he complains, a line that out of his mouth approaches Rodney Dangerfield's "I don't get no respect." He'll unburden his anxieties Saturday, and if you like unpretentious comedy, this might be a good choice.
Sebastian Maniscalco performs 8 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. $43. 727-791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.
BEST IS YET TO COME: STIGERS DOES SINATRA
Saxophonist and vocalist Curtis Stigers teams up with the Florida Orchestra to pay tribute to one of popular music's most enduring legends, the inarguably great Frank Sinatra. Hits he'll be performing include Come Fly With Me, You Make Me Feel So Young, The Lady is a Tramp and Fly Me to the Moon.
Concerts are at 8 p.m. Friday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. $15-$45. (727) 892-3337. floridaorchestra.org.
COOL CHANGE: WIZARDS OF WINTER
Part rock band, part Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the Wizards of Winter burst onto the holiday scene Friday with a big-time stage show. Musicians boast diverse backgrounds, from metal to Broadway musicals, and have packaged it all into a Christmas program. Audiences range from children to seniors, and the band tries to reward them with every last costume detail, special effect and those crowd-pleasing holiday tunes, reshaped by their own unique brand.
The Wizards of Winter perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $34.50 to $49.50. (727) 791-7400. atthecap.com.