Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hitchcock as Farce

One of the last movies made by Alfred Hitchcock in Britain was called the 39 Steps.  It is a story about a single guy who goes to a musical theater and gets involved with a spy or double agent and then is drawn into a search for spies and something he knows as the 39 Steps.   It is a 1930s melodrama which comes from an earlier novel by John Buchan.

In the movies it is a good example of Hitchcock's early work in the talkies.   But someone named Patrick Barlow had the idea of making it into a farce - camping up all the melodrama but keeping even the original music out of the movie.  The B Street Theater is doing a production of the Barlow play and does a superb job.   B Street's productions are known for their in the round performances and sparse set design.  In this production they use that to their great advantage.

I was struck by one other notion as I enjoyed the production last night.  Barlow's work uses the music and many of the lines from the 1935 movie.    I believe one would enjoy the play even more by seeing the movie first.   It is an elegant parody.  Some in the copyright community would argue that this type of production is not permitted under the DCMA.   It would be a sad day if playwrights like Barlow felt themselves bound to the narrow standards.  The play stands on its own merits.  But it also offers a debt to the earlier movie.   Overly restrictive interpretations of laws meant to protect artist's creations that can hamper new productions like this one would mean a real loss for us all.

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