The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful

The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful

The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful
By Charles Ludlam
Directed by Christine Robison
Starring Doug Bowser and Joshua Eads-Brown
It’s No Mystery Series
Sleuths Mystery Dinner Theatre, Inc.

Halloween is big business, but it lacks the done-to-death chestnuts Christmas offers. Irma Vep is simple and silly enough to make a claim for that slot, even if it’s a drag fest without a deep, brooding moral. Played by two comic actors who know how to wear a wig and tell a joke, the story carefully segues around the seven lively and fully developed denizens of Mandacrest Manor. Mandacrest is out past Heathcliff’s place, somewhere on the lonely Yorkish moors. Exposition is passed off to the serving class in the shape of frustrated Jan Twisden (Eads-Brown) and gimp Nicodemus Underwood (Ba’aser). He lost a leg saving someone from a wolf, and she looks like she could have bit it off. The pair works for Egyptologist Lord Hillcrest (Eads-brown) and the New Lady Hillcrest (Ba’aser). A few people are missing, including the first Lady Hillcrest and her son, Victor. Victor was killed, or so they say, but his pet wolf Victor. Say what you will about the aristocracy, they aren’t always the cleverest when it comes to naming things. The New Lady H doesn’t fit in very well, and Edgar’s shrine to the first lady doesn’t help matters, nor do the constant lupine attacks on the live stock. You can guess the rest; it’s a fangs and fur festival, complete with a zero budget trip to Egypt and a bleeding painting.
You’d need to be about 3 years old to get a real fright out of this slapstick comedy, but anyone over 10 might pee laughing. Costume changes are quick and occasionally accurate, and the air of seriousness Eads Brown struggles to project often fades in the withering fire of Ba’aser jittery mugging and exquisite timing. There are three acts, with the second shown as a scratchy video projection from the biggest digital projector I’ve ever seen. Director Robison handled the cast well enough, but also took the time to get the audience pointed in the right direction for the faux silent film. The projector faced the back wall of the Sleuth’s Theater, probably because of some structural problem supporting it. Irma Vep should give you enough holiday humor to get you through the real horror up ahead – holidays with the family.

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