Improv techniques superimposed over the plot of John Buchan's 1915 spy novel made for great fun in the performance of The 39 Steps that Christine and I attended yesterday as part of the Orlando Fringe Festival.
The trailer above gives as good a taste of what's in store as I could summarize, and it makes for an interesting blend of comedy and spy intrigue.
Even before the show begins, performers in character collect random suggestions from the audience by way of surveys, secret messages dropped to "the man in the trench coat" and ideas written on chalk slates, the way a spy might scrawl a surreptitious detail.
Those suggestions help direct the plot, which updates Buchan's pre-World War I story to the era of the Cuban missile crisis. Richard Hannay (or Rachel if needed) can be played by any one of the improve performers, based on a vote from the audience.
It's all funny to be sure, but the core spy story and chase elements from the novel are woven through the tale, and it all builds to Hannay in a desperate situation.
I found it fresh and fun, and it was a good look at how genre gems can be given fresh life.
The concept stems from Ryan Price of Orlando's Invisible Frisbee, and it's under the direction of Rebekah Lane. Check out the slide show of the production and more on their website.