Summer fun with Florida Studio Theatre’s vampy, campy The Mystery of Irma Vep.
By Kay Kipling
If the price of gas is keeping you closer to home this summer, you can always buy a ticket to Florida Studio Theatre’s The Mystery of Irma Vep—you’ll be taking a trip to England, Egypt and some undefined land of crazy, ridiculous humor that defies logic. Oh, and did I mention the men dressed in skirts?
Irma Vep, probably the best known of Ridiculous Theatre Company founder Charles Ludlam’s drag plays, is a two-actor romp that makes you feel the stage is inhabited by a much bigger cast. A campy, affectionate parody of, among other things, such old movies as Rebecca, Wuthering Heights and The Mummy’s Curse, Irma Vep is set primarily at spooky Mandacrest Manor, where Lord Edgar’s new bride, Lady Enid, is having trouble settling in due to the howling wolves, unfriendly housekeeper and the huge portrait of Lord Edgar’s first, late wife that hangs over the fireplace. Throw in some werewolves, vampires and other supernatural creatures, along with a brief side trip to an ancient Egyptian tomb, and you’ve got a mostly amusing melange of tribute and send-up.
The two actors (assisted by some offstage crew members in order to make the impossibly quick costume changes needed) successfully carry it all off with the right mix of heated overacting and the occasional symbolic wink to the audience that says we’re all in it for the fun of it. Patrick Noonan, who plays Lord Edgar and the housekeeper, is frequently hilarious, especially in the latter role; and Brad DePlanche does yeoman duty as Lady Enid (he’s sort of disturbingly fetching here, actually), the wooden-legged swineherd Nicodemus Underwood, and two Egyptians including a long-dead princess named Pev Amri (anagram fans will figure that one out, as well as the play’s title character).
Patrick Noonan and Brad DePlanche in FST’s The Mystery of Irma Vep.
It doesn’t all make sense, and it’s not supposed to. If I didn’t laugh quite as hard as I thought I remembered doing years ago when the Asolo presented this show, that may be because the action all moves so fast, it’s only when you look back on it later that you fully get some of the jokes. For the audience, it’s sometimes a matter of trying to keep up.
The Mystery of Irma Vep continues through July 18 on FST’s mainstage; call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.