Get thee immediately to the Lucille Lortel Theatre for an evening of side-splitting, howling hilarity that is a glowing tribute to the talent of Charles Ludlam and his partner Everett Quinton who is now not a co-star but the director of the 30th anniversary revival of THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP – A PENNY DREADFUL – that is anything but.
IRMA VEP (an anagram of VAMPIRE) has withstood the test of time and is still as hilarious as ever – a comedy of gothic proportions, a comedy of outlandish imagination and wit that gives new meaning to the word “ridiculous”.
Charles Ludlam created The Ridiculous Theatrical Company in 1967. Many wild and yes, ridiculous plays followed. Unfortunately he died much too early in 1987. Twenty prolific years. The torch has been passed to his partner/lover/muse Everett Quinton and the result is a new mounting of this classic Gothic inspired who-dun-it.
Thunder and lightning. Screams in the night. Werewolves. Vampires and a mummy brought back to life fill the stage of the Lortel in this mash up of classic theater, word play, sight gags, hot toddies, a duet on the dulcimer, quick changes of wigs, costumes, genders and accents that allow two terrific actors – playing all the roles – to delight us for two hours in this blissfully funny comedy of outlandish manners.
Arnie Burton and Robert Sella have taken over for Ludlam and Quinton respectively and respectfully. It takes two to tango to make this production work so successfully and they are more than up to the challenge under the guidance of Mr. Quinton who has really been there and done that.
Lady Enid Hillcrest (Arnie Burton) is the second wife of Egyptologist Lord Edgar (Robert Sella) whose first wife Irma (portrait above the askew mantel) was killed along with their only son by a werewolf. Or was she? Jane Twisden (Sella – channeling Emma Thompson) is the overly protective maid pursued by the one stiffly wooden legged, leering swineherd Nicodemus (Burton).
In Act II we start off in Cairo where Lord Edgar meets up with Alcazar and Pev Amri (the bare chested mummy brought back to hysterical dancing life) in an underground tomb. We then travel back to Mandacrest – the Hillcrest Estate near Hempstead Heath where all the loose ends are tidied up as the actors exit one door only to enter a split second later as another character with a completely new look and ample opportunities to chew up the scenery.
It must be havoc backstage but onstage it is utterly delightful.
Perhaps the time has come for a “Charles Ludlam Festival” of ridiculous but oh so satisfying plays that might include his CAMILLE and GALLAS.
Limited engagement through May 11th ONLY
Photos: Carol Rosegg
A Red Bull Theater production. www.redbulltheater.com
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