Four actors play 150 different roles in CAPA presentation.

The 39 Steps, Broadway Across America's play coming to the Palace Theatre Jan. 19-24, follows a Canadian man visiting London in the 1930s. The story's protagonist is on the run after a woman who claimed she was dodging secret agents ends up dead in his apartment. As the adventurous plot coils, part of the thrill is that all of the scenes are performed by only four actors.

A mix of Hitchcock thrills (the play is based on his 1935 film by the same name, after all) and Monty Python-esque shenanigans, it features actress Claire Brownell playing four of 150 characters. "It's insane," she says of performing in a show with split-second character changes. "But I don't carry the burden of the insanity."

In fact, Ted Deasy, who plays the show's fast-thinking hero Richard Hannay, accounts for only one role-which leaves 145 parts for actors Eric Hissom and Scott Parkinson.

The roles aren't all speaking parts. Sometimes the two men will play parts of the scenery. "But they never play anything that is inconsequential," Brownell says. "There is always something going on." Such as a scene where one is playing a rock and keeps getting walked over.

Brownell says keeping track of the actors and the fast-paced dialogue has garnered standing ovations from audiences during the tour, which stepped into Atlanta and San Francisco before its stop in Columbus. (Also, try to identify humorous allusions to other Hitchcock films such as North By Northwest and Psycho.) She says the only people who shouldn't see The 39 Steps are "those who don't have a sense of humor." Tickets range from $27.50 to $57.50.

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