Macguffin on a McBudget 

Richard Hannay attempts to enjoy a nice evening at the theater, but he just can't seem to lose himself in the show — mostly because shots ring out and a beautiful woman ends up in his comforting arms, and then she ends up dead. With breathtaking swiftness, Richard is drawn into the perilous world of espionage, hunted by both the police and the agents of an organization known as the 39 Steps. If this sounds familiar, you're probably an Alfred Hitchcock fan (or a fan of John Buchan's novels, which provided Hitchcock with his film's plot). But this is Patrick Barlow's The 39 Steps, a comic mélange of Hitchcockian trademarks and the lowest of low-budget theatrical productions; a cast of hundreds is portrayed by four actors, props are shoddy and the murder is taken a little less seriously than Hitchcock would have allowed. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis dares you to brave The 39 Steps Tuesday through Saturday (January 6 through 31) on the Browning Mainstage in the Loretto-Hilton Center (130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves; 314-968-4925 or www.repstl.org). Tickets are $18 to $68.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Jan. 6. Continues through Jan. 31, 2010

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