The all-star cast of Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s ’39 Steps’ makes for a witty and suspenseful evening

idaho shakespeare festival
Photo courtesy of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival
This article was collaboratively written by Hanalei Potempa, culture editor, and Naomi Priddy, culture reporter.

The Idaho Shakespeare festival presents this month’s production, “The 39 Steps,” performed at the festival’s outdoor, hillside amphitheater. 

“The 39 Steps” is a play inspired by an adventure spy novel of the same name written by John Buchan in the early 1900s. A  film adaptation directed by Alfred Hitchcock was later released in 1939.

The play is rooted in satire and is a comedic twist on the traditional spy mystery story. 

Directed by Jaclyn Miller, the production follows the story of Richard Hannay, an everyday man who meets a mysterious woman who claims to be a spy. In their meeting, she tells the story of a suspicious professor in Scotland involved in a mysterious organization called the 39 Steps. 

After a night together, Hannay wakes up to find the woman stabbed in the back. With her ramblings about the 39 Steps running through his head, he travels to Scotland in hopes of uncovering the truth while also being a wanted suspect for the murder.

In a cheeky blend of comedy and mystery, Hannay is taken on a death-defying adventure to unveil the mysteries of the 39 Steps. 

The play follows a very chaotic storyline featuring an attempted assassination, a plane crash, murder, a very unfortunate handcuffing between characters, as well as a whole lot of laughs and an unsuspected romance. 

idaho shakespeare festival
[Photo of a performance hosted by the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.]
Photo courtesy of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival

Though only made up of four actors and performed on a small set, the actors Anthony Michael Martinez, Betsy Mugavero, Maggie Kettering and Joe Wegner delivered an extraordinary performance with mid-scene set and costume changes. 

The actors made the story come to life on stage, using props to quickly transition between characters and presenting completely different monologues in the same scene.

The story is scattered with illusions and puns that provide a lighthearted feel to the otherwise thrilling mysterious plot line. Its inclusion of humor received non-stop laughs from the audience, making the viewing experience very communal and animated.

The conclusion of the story combines a variety of mishaps and identity reveals that unveil the ending and the true meaning behind the notorious 39 Steps. 

Idaho Shakespeare Festival provides a beautiful setting to enjoy the production with a serene outdoor theater featuring a variety of tabled seating as well as the hillside seating with lawn chairs and blankets.

Part of the festival’s charm is the outdoor venue, allowing attendees to indulge in wine, picnics and snacks of their choice from home or the cafe. 

Come out to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival for a fun and romantic evening discovering the secrets behind “The 39 Steps.”

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