Review: Gothic goof-spoof ‘Irma Vep’ will make you laugh
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A smidge of Keats, a smattering of Poe, a splash of John Waters and you’ve got The Mystery of Irma Vep, Charles Ludlam’s campy gothic “thriller” performed by two actors as six characters in three high-speed, quick-change, cross-dressing comedy acts Sure, it’s a bit of a one-note, spoofy goof-fest, but that note is a funny one, thanks to the efforts of its two comedic leads.
The play’s plot is so outrageous — involving vampires, reincarnated Egyptian princesses, werewolves and curses — that closely following its ridiculous twists isn’t entirely necessary. Which is good, since I missed the entire final scene of the first act thanks to the couple behind me wrestling with a stubborn candy wrapper. (I brace for this sort of thing with LVLT main-stage audiences, but this was literally moments before intermission. Really?!)
The play is set mostly in the cozy sitting room of Mandacrest manor, with a brief sojourn to an ancient Egyptian tomb, for a scene featuring unexpected audience participation. Troy Tinker tackles the main roles of the twisted housekeeper and the Manor’s troubled Lord Edgar, while Tony Blosser grants high-octane energy to his roles as the gimpish farmhand and the Lord’s new wife, Lady Enid. The two also tackle other “surprise” characters, while Irma Vep, captured in oil over the hearth, casts her wide-eyes over the action.
Ludlam’s absurdist horror spoof doesn’t demand great emotional range from its two actors, but its physical demands and breakneck character leaps could rapidly turn to utter chaos if not performed well. Under Troy Heard’s direction, both actors handle the shifts with surprising agility — even as the scenes amplify, the wigs go asunder, the make-up beads in trickles of sweat, and the costumes burst a bit at the seams. Through it all, the pair scores laughs for even the corniest one-liners. Blosser’s almost maniacally over-the-top performance will make you laugh — despite yourself, at times.
No stranger to camp sensibilities, Heard, along with stage manager Andi Salazar, incorporates some clever visual effects that heighten the play’s humor and mystery. Ginny Adams’ lighting team grants the play its gothic stormy nights, dramatic sunsets over the moors and inviting sitting room glows, and the “dressing crew” deserves props for keeping the cast quickly clad in everything from peg legs to werewolf paws.
THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP, Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m.,through April 14; Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Dr., www.lvlt.org, $21-$24