The Crossroads Repertory Theatre on the ISU campus in Terre Haute opened their 43rd season with Charles Ludlam’s "The Mystery of Irma Vep" in a very stylish and funny production directed by Sharon Ammen.
Ludlam’s play is a campy, mystery to a manor born, with just two actors playing the entire Mandacrest Manor household. Brendon Wentz was kept busy as the trusted family servant Nicodemus, the new Lady of the house, Lady Enid, an Egyptian tomb hustler, and even a winsomely come hither mummy, brought magically back to life. Mark Douglas-Jones worked in the sweat of his brow as Jan the formidable family housekeeper, the Lord, Lord Edgar, a frighteningly mysterious intruder and possibly the mysterious Irma Vep herself. Both actors did a terrific job skillfully keeping their characters apart with carefully modulated gestures as well as accents and modes of speech.
The two actors were ably abetted by the on-stage sound man Jamal Ishmon. In addition to the usual sounds, Ishmon does a pretty scary wolf howl along some pretty realistic snarling, and he even offers an expressive, if technically limited, mandolin version of "The Last Rose of Summer." Back-stage three dressers: Amanda Miller, Stacey Morris and Ashlee Vitz were kept busy pulling on and off Sherry McFadden’s cleverly designed costumes.
Playwright Ludlam delighted in theatre, film, novels and liberally borrowed from all of them. Following Sunday’s show, Professor Rick Roemer presented a curtain talk titled "Charles Ludlam: Notorious Thief of Bad Gags." The Crossroads Repertory Theatre’s production of "The Mystery of Irma Vep" takes its time in setting up the characters and the plot. There’s a lot of respect for Ludlam’s witty dialog and space for the actors to flesh out of his characters. Although there is plenty of action and at times it is fast and furious, it’s never mad-cap.
The Sunday matinee audience was at first a bit hesitant in its reaction especially in the early scenes of the first act, but it more than made up for it with laughter and applause in the second.
"The Mystery of Irma Vep" continues with performances this Wednesday and then July 6th, 8th and 25th. You can find an interview with director Sharon Ammen on our Arts Interviews page .
This weekend the Crossroads Repertory Theatre’s production of Lorraine Hansberry’s Pulitzer Prize winning "A Raisin in the Sun" opens.