Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Next Act Theatre, "The Mystery of Irma Vep"

On Wednesday evening, May 15th,we went to Next Act Theatre to see the mystery/farce, "The Mystery of Irma Vep, A Penny Dreadful." "Irma Vep" was written by Charles Ludlam for his "Ridiculous Theater Company" in 1984, and is scripted for two actors doing seven parts.

Two of Milwaukee's veteran actors, John McGivern and Norman Moses, performed the show, which requires something on the order of thirty-five costume/character changes in the two-hour show. The main plot takes off Alfred Hitchcock's "Rebecca." Lady Enid (McGivern) is the new bride of Lord Edgar (Moses), whom he brings home to his ancestral manor, "Mandercrest". The old homestead is haunted by (at least) the memory of his deceased wife, Irma Vep; their dead son, Victor; and all-too physically by Irma's pet wolf (also named Victor) running loose and terrorizing the countryside. Jane, the housekeeper (the "Mrs. Danvers" role)(Moses) resents Lady Enid and works to undermine and sabotage her. The fourth mamber of the household is Nicodemus (McGivern), the man-of-all-work, who nurses his own set of grievances.

Once this pot is set to boil, it winds through most of the gothic conventions, including bleeding portraits, vampirism, werewolves, imprisoned mad wives, and an excursion to Egypt in search of the secret of resurrecting the dead.

It's all pretty good fun, with a major part of the entertainment being the cleverness and speed of the costume changes. The major set, representing Mandercrest's drawing room, is well done and fun to look at. The change to "Egypt" is cleverly done. Costumes were fascinating considering they had to be rigged for quick changes, but there were no obvious tricks (the stage crew/dressers were given a well-deserved curtain call). Incidental music was provided by the "Mad Gothic Organist" Matt Zembrowski, who underscored some of the play's roots with an entre-acte that included the Monty Python "Liberty Bell March" and the "Addams Family" themesong.

Both actors did yeoman duty and were generally fine. McGivern made good use of his rubbery features as the growling Nicodemus, smoothing them out as the vapid Lady Enid. Moses' more regular features worked well for the stone-faced Jane and stiff-upper lip Lord Edgar. The one flaw I noted was that Moses' accent as Jane wandered all over the map, but this was a minor issue.

Very enjoyable!

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Tags: theatre
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