The outrageous and fast-paced shenanigans are kept in perfect balance by director Maria Aitken, who maintains a crisp, improvisation-flavored style. Actors relying on quick-change artistry tackle many roles—gender-bending and otherwise. A bare-bones set design by Peter McKintosh provides the ideal setup for all sorts of gleefully silly sight gags cleverly played out with props and set pieces (such as window frames, ladders, and hats) and Kevin Adams' ingenious lighting effects.
The lead character is dashing deadpan hero Richard Hannay (splendidly played by Ted Deasy, the only actor taking a single role), who goes to the theater one night in search of adventure and gets much more than he expected. He meets a frantic femme fatale, Annabella (the sublime Claire Brownell). She's a spy who clues him in to danger surrounding them just before she's murdered. Hannay is then off to Scotland to unravel the mystery, soon discovering he is the suspect in Annabella's killing. He encounters loopy Scottish farmers, Nazis, policemen, and a woman out to get him (Brownell), who ends up falling for him. Playing umpteen roles are Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson, whose mastery of various dialects is mind-boggling and who elicit enormous laughs with their breathless quick-change antics and their mastery of characters ranging from overbearing matrons to menacing double agents.
There are plenty of choice Hitchcock references along the way, such as the shower scene from "Psycho," though the highlight is a visually dazzling re-creation of the fabulous crop-duster chase scene from "North by Northwest." Having already conquered London, Broadway, Off-Broadway, and several cities internationally, the show finally arrives in L.A. in its national tour edition, a delectable treat for those with a taste for unapologetically stark-raving-nutty fare.
Presented by Center Theatre Group at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A. April 28-May 16. Tue.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 and 6:30 p.m. (Dark May 5-6.) (213) 972-4400. www.centertheatregroup.org.