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The 39 Steps

Pic from Broadway Across America's "The 39 Steps"

Imagine Alfred Hitchcock crossed with Monty Python and you have “The 39 Steps,” an irreverent production on the Broadway Across America tour that opens Feb. 10th at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.

The show follows Richard Hannay as a woman claiming to be a spy seduces him, then dies in his home. Worried he'll be wrongfully accused, Hannay then panics and flees London. It’s based on the 1935 Hitchcock thriller of the same name, and is told with four actors ambitiously re-enacting all of the characters, locations and famous scenes from the film.

“If folks come to see a Hitchcock play they’re thrown for a while, but then they settle in and realize we’re not making fun of Hitchcock, we’re celebrating him,” said Ted Deasy, who plays Hannay.

Deasy recently talked to us about loving Hitchcock, false accusations and director’s cameos.

How many characters do you play?

I play one. I’m the man who stumbles into this international situation, then must run away from this deadly power he doesn’t know, chasing something called the 39 Steps.  Claire Brownell plays four characters, all in heels, then Eric Hisson and Scott Parkinson play everyone else.

What's your favorite Hitchcock movie?

“North By Northwest.” In the course of this show, it has become my favorite for many reasons: The score, the cast, the look of the film, the chemistry between the leads, and the great villains. And I love trains, and there are some great train sequences in the movie.

Other Hitchcock favorites?

I was scared to death as a kid by “The Birds.” “To Catch A Thief” is great too. Cary Grant is my favorite of Hitchcock’s heroes, because he had a detachment that just kept him going. It’s the same sense of ease and detachment that Harrison ford has too.

This show makes Hitchcock funny. What's the funniest story you've ever heard about Hitchcock?

Thank god for Turner Classic Movies. There’s a great interview with Pat Hitchcock talking about working with her father. It’s interesting how involved his wife was, though I can’t remember any direct stories about him. I do find his obsessions fascinating, though, and what his desire was to create movies with so many tormented and twisted women. Everyone speaks in loving terms of working with him, but also in odd, quirky terms about working with him. He was an odd auteur.

Is it just riffing “The 39 Steps,” or do you play with other Hitchcock movies as well?

Our goal is to tell the story with as much love for Hitchcock as possible, so there are allusions to other Hitchcock movies as well. They’re peppered and sprinkled throughout. It’s very fun. It’s the first show where actual groans in the audience are a great thing. I love that, because it’s right with the spirit of the show. All the great ones are in there.

Have you done any other Hitchcock stage productions?

I did a stage production of “Dial ‘M’ For Murder” three years ago. Hitchcock doesn’t make horror films, he makes thrillers. You know what’s going to happen, but you don’t know how it’s going to happen. It’s a really twisted way to create suspense, which in many ways is a lost art. We don’t have much of that any more.

What's the worst thing someone has accused you of doing that wasn't true?

Wow, I wish I had a good answer to that, but I don’t. In college friends accused me of being a phony. I had joined a club that was part of the “establishment,” and this idea of perception vs. reality has lived with me ever since. I remember having to defend that because they saw things one way and I saw it another. I was accused of becoming another person, which wasn’t true at all.

Does the director of the show make an on-stage appearance, a la Hitchcock in his movies?

The show’s original director, Maria Aitken, doesn’t have a cameo, and none of her successors have appeared on stage either. One of the great things Maria has done is have great restraint. There’s more gained from doing less.