The Mystery of Irma Vep
Credit: Carol Rosegg
Is your inner child alive and well? Or does it need a transfusion to revive? Have I got the prescription for you. Run, don’t walk to the Lucille Lortel Theater to see the revival of The Mystery of Irma Vep! A combination of silliness, satire and sophistication that no child or adult can resist. A true laugh fest.
This play was originally performed in 1984. It was written by Charles Ludlam who was the founder of The Ridiculous Theater Company. It was performed in a basement theater on a small stage. I had the privilege of seeing this production.
More than eight parts are played by only two actors; Charles Ludlam, the author and Everett Quinton. They were both remarkable. The plural of tour de force is tours de force and so it was. At that time I could not imagine any other actors doing justice to these multiple roles. But, there have been many other revivals. I didn’t see any of those.
This latest incarnation with Robert Sella and Arnie Burton, squeeze out every laugh and then some. It is exquisitely directed with the accuracy of a choreographer. It meets the mark on every sight gag, quick change, sound effect, and word play. The director is Everett Quinton, the actor from the original production. Quinton took over as head of the Ridiculous company after Ludlam died of AIDS in 1987 at 44 years old. He had written more than 29 plays.
After act one I couldn’t imagine anyone but these two actors or the original cast being able to handle the record speed changes from character to to werewolf to vampire to ghost and to mummie. However, during intermission I talked to two lively little boys. I asked them about the show. Together they enacted their rendition of a scene between the two drunken characters. I would not be surprised to these two in a future production. Turns out they are one of the actors children, not sure which one.
This production is a much fancier version of the basement original. Here we have the top of the line scenic design by John Arnone. There are wonderful costumes by Ramona Ponce. Peter Wests’ lighting design keeps us on the edge of our seats waiting for the next eerie happening.
The play is a satire of several theatrical, literary and film genres. You can enjoy this on the level of a young child watching a victorian horror melodrama. Or you can be the sophisticated audience member who gets all the references from Shakespeare to Mel Brooks. But noone can help laughing at the xmas tree car deodorizer that tops the egyptian characters fez and swirls around with his head. And all ages will be captivated to see one character in a doorway who in one moment is a man, and a second later is the werewolf attacking him. Camp theater magic. Then, it is as if the two actors are in a comedy duel. First one steps over the large dead animal center stage, only to be met by the other actor wildly stepping backwards. This is a fast paced game: “I see you and raise you one.” Don’t miss it. Thanks to Everett Quinton for keeping on!!
Written by: Charles Ludlam Directed by: Everett Quinton
Cast: Arnie Burton, Robert Sella
Remaining Showtimes: April 19 thru May 11, 2014
Location: Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street
Ticket prices: $60 – $95 For info and ticketss call: 866 811 4111