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'39 Steps' and Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' at Robsham This Fall

Adj. Assoc. Prof. Luke Jorgensen (Theatre) talks with Costume Shop Supervisor Quinn Burgess, left, and Adjunct Asst. Prof. Jackie Dalley about costumes for the upcoming production of “The 39 Steps,” which kicks off the fall Robsham Theater schedule on Oct. 17. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Rosanne Pellegrini | Chronicle Staff

Published: Oct. 3, 2013

The opening show for the Robsham Theater-Theatre Department fall season combines a Hitchcock masterpiece, a juicy spy novel, even a dash of Monty Python — and the result is an enjoyable, fast-paced whodunit, say production organizers.

Patrick Barlow’s raucous, award-winning comedy “The 39 Steps,” which runs Oct. 17-20, features more than 150 zany characters, played by a cast of only five performers. Adjunct Associate Professor of Theatre Luke Jorgensen will direct this stage adaptation — written in 2005 by English actor and playwright Patrick Barlow — of the famous 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film, itself based on a 1914 novel by John Buchan. 

Set in the 1930s, the play’s plot unfolds as Richard Hannay, a man with a boring life, meets Annabella, who claims to be a spy. Following her murder, a mysterious organization — “The 39 Steps” — pursues him in a nationwide manhunt. As the story unfolds, the protagonist meets a wide array of characters.

“I’m so intrigued by this play,” said Jorgensen. “It requires the actors to play dozens of different roles, with mere moments to change character. I thought this presented an unbelievable and exciting challenge that I think the audience will just eat up.”

Nov. 21-24 will see a staging of Anton Chekhov’s classic drama “Three Sisters,” which follows the three Prozorov sisters’ search for meaning in the wake of their father’s death in a small, provincial Russian town. The play poignantly conveys the lives, struggles, loves and secret desires of Masha, Olga and Irina, and their brother Andrei.

Since its debut in 1901 at the Moscow Arts Theatre, “Three Sisters” has had an enduring theater presence, BC producers say, continuing to enthrall audiences as a mainstay of realist drama with rich, multifaceted characters and powerful themes.

Directing the Robsham show is David R. Gammons, who is the Rev. J. Donald Monan, SJ, professor of Theatre Arts for the fall semester. An innovative director, educator, designer and visual artist known for his experimental productions, Gammons is a graduate of Harvard University’s American Repertory Theatre Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. His recent Boston-area productions include “Romeo and Juliet” with the Boston Conservatory, the city’s premiere of “Red” at the SpeakEasy Theatre Company, and “The Duchess of Malfi” for Actors’ Shakespeare Project.

He has served for 14 years as director of Concord Academy’s theater program, where he has taught courses in acting, directing and design. Gammons is the recipient of 23 Elliot Norton Awards and 30 Independent Reviewers of New England Awards.

Tickets for “The 39 Steps” and “Three Sisters” are $15; $10 for BC students, faculty and staff (with BC ID) and senior citizens. All tickets are available online at, through the RTAC Box Office (ext.2-4012), or by calling ext.2-4002.

More information on the Theatre Department productions, which will be performed on Robsham’s main stage — including details on cast and crew members as well as on the full 2013-14 season, and profiles of Monan Professors — also is available on the Theatre website.