The annual summer season at the Kennedy Theatre, known as Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy, gets underway for a seventh season. Kicking things off tonight is a very enticing title, The 39 Steps. It's a madcap farce that has become a global hit ever since it first appeared in Leeds, England, in 2005, and its subsequent New York launch in 2008. As is often the case with shows that prove to be hits on the regional repertory circuit, it has the multiple virtues of pop-cultural accessibility, with its knowing references to Hitchcock's filmography, a light, parodying touch and a small cast of four actors. This Raleigh production runs Wednesdays–Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through June 19.
Although this play is a comedy, theatergoers who are so inclined should consider reading the original John Buchan novel. This World War I-era author virtually invented the modern spy thriller, and The 39 Steps is an electrifying, swift read; no less a contemporary authority than Christopher Hitchens has confessed to a lifelong love of Buchan's pulp fiction. When you're done tearing through The 39 Steps, check out Greenmantle. —David Fellerath