Mash-ups are the trend of the times and nothing mashes up genres like “The 39 Steps,” a British and Broadway comedy whodunit that has just hit Maine this year. The first Midcoast production, presented by Everyman Repertory Theatre Company, will open Friday, Nov. 19 for a two-weekend run at the Camden Opera House.

It is the first time the Rockport-based professional troupe has trod the Camden Opera House boards and this play is a perfect fit for the downtown Victorian-era venue. “The 39 Steps,” as re-interpreted by Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, is self-consciously theatrical and the Everyman production goes out of its way to remind the audience where it is.

“There’s no crossing in the back; it’s clearly a theater and everything is visible, which is a challenge for the cast,” said David Troup of Rockland who, with John Burstein of Lincolnville, plays a dizzying array of characters as the script-billed Clown 1 and Clown 2.

The show’s original inspiration is “The Thirty-Nine Steps,” a 1915 novel by Scottish author John Buchan. It was the first of five action-packed novels starring Richard Hannay, a veddy British hero who gets out of hair-raising adventures with aplomb. Its best-known film adaptation, and the one that also contributes genetic material to the current stage show, was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 classic. The storyline mixes spies, romance and light comedy, all of which are ante-ed up big time in “The 39 Steps.” The two-time Tony and Drama Desk awards-winning show often is described as Hitchcock Meets Monty Python, and Hitchcock fans will find allusions to several of his films.

Everyman artistic director Paul Hodgson of Rockport plays the hero, whose increasingly frantic endeavor in this version is to get the story to its conclusion. He is the only member of the four-person cast to play a single character throughout and, therefore, wear the same clothes all evening, although he was spotted before a recent rehearsal wandering the stage with an outsized pink bra on his head.

“Yes, we’ve got all the props now — got the handcuffs, got the parachutes … well, no Nazi flag yet,” he said.

Hodgson’s wife, Jennifer Hodgson, plays the several principal female characters (the Clowns essay a few females as well), sometimes in back-and-forth appearances, so she has gowns and hats and wigs to contend with. One of the latter is giving her grief this night, threatening to pop off her head unexpectedly.

The Clowns play dozens of characters each, so the only reliable part of their costumes is their footwear — shoes and gartered socks — and trousers, though the latter are sometimes rolled up out of sight. Although some of the play’s stage business has become expected during the course of its short theatrical life, the playwright specifically leaves it all up for grabs. The troupe began working on the show back in July because the actors wanted to create their own bits. For the Clowns especially, this has meant a lot of improvisation, a technique that will continue as the production goes before its audiences.

“It was fantastic to have a really long rehearsal process; it’s allowed us to go a lot further and push things. The thing with improvisation is, you never say no,” said Burstein, known to a generation as public television’s Slim Goodbody.

“It’s been great to work with someone like John. I know he can extricate himself from anything I throw at him,” said Troup.

The Clowns don’t completely run amok. In addition to multiple characters, props and costume changes, “The 39 Steps” has 145 sound cues and soundboard operator Steve Bird relies on hearing or seeing certain things to trigger his effects (including an onstage plane crash). And one of Paul Hodgson’s, and his character’s, jobs is to keep the story moving forward.

“Sometimes we just GO and Paul brings it back,” said Troup.

Given the experience of its cast, the show is largely self-directed, but Ellen Barnes of Rockland stepped in when the troupe took over the opera house stage a week before opening to provide some from-the-house oversight. Her husband, Ken Barnes, designed and built, with Alan Hall, the clever set pieces that create the show’s scenery as well as permit its many gags. Also on board on the production end are stage manager Rebecca Gross, working with a several-person crew; sound designer Terry Gleeson; lightmeister Brandon Koons; and few more.

Over the show’s relatively long prep period, the troupe has rehearsed in living rooms, a small classroom of Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Education in Rockland and the opera house’s third floor. In the days before opening, they will be dealing with the logistics of costumes, props and business in their actual performance space for the first time. It’s a lot to bring together, but that’s rather the whole point of this manic pushing-the-stage-comedy-envelope show.

“I have a feeling we’re going to be discovering stuff all through the run,” said Burstein.

Everyman Repertory Theatre Company’s “The 39 Steps” will be presented Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Thanksgiving weekend. Tickets are $18, available in Camden at the Owl & Turtle Bookshop; online at; or at the Camden Opera House, Elm Street/Route 1, before performances.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to