"The 39 Steps" at Company of Fools


Hailey-based Company of Fools' current production, The 39 Steps, is a play based on a Hitchcock film based on a novel. It tells the story of a man falsely accused of murder trying to clear his own name and expose an international conspiracy in the process. What started as a pulpy thriller has morphed into a slapstick debacle that when properly executed is the kind of funny where people fear they might wet themselves.

And while I chuckled heartily throughout Company of Fools' production, my belly didn't ache and catching my breath was no trouble at all.

Patrick Barlow's script is deceptive, in that it is so alive with humor that it seems to carry itself, when in fact the gags must be performed flawlessly to work. Comedy, especially slapstick, is all about delivery. It requires a high level of control, in which performers play the audience like a puppet. The actors in the production believably performed multiple accents and characters, complex prop and character shifts and mechanically precise physical synchronization, but the stratospherically over the top gags that play like the Marx Brothers at their best, were inconsistent. The script presents possibilities that could be mined far deeper than the production ventured, possibilities that the play's reputation as a comedic powerhouse are built upon.

However, Company of Fools was daring in even attempting the script on a the stage the size of Hailey's Liberty Theater. The play naturally wants to spread out, to have room to breathe heavily, but they still sold it without the benefits of a 2,000-seat auditorium. The production is far from being a miss, and is definitely worth seeing if you're planning a trip to Sun Valley.

It's also worth seeing if you happen to find yourself on Broadway. It's why theater still matters.

The show runs through July 30 and tickets are $10-$30.