It is a dark and stormy night when Lord Edgar and Lady Enid return to their haunted estate. The mayhem that follows runs the gamut from a vampire attack, to a trip to an ancient Egyptian tomb – complete with dancing mummy – to a werewolf hunt. “The Mystery of Irma Vep” is a fantastic romp that spoofs horror movies, classic literature and Hitchcock with a smattering of melodrama thrown in for good measure. The fact that all of the roles are played by two actors who change clothes more often than a teenage girl getting ready for a date, just adds to the comedy.
The costume design by Alex Jaeger is superb. Not only are some of the pieces quite beautiful, the design allows for the actors to change costumes so quickly and fluidly that they are able to exit as one character and enter as the next in only a matter of seconds. A round of applause should also go out to the costume crew backstage for keeping the multitude of changes straight and on schedule with the often break-neck pace!
Director Jenny Sullivan capitalizes on the inherent wittiness of the script and the immense talent of the cast. She is able to strike a great balance between the utterly absurd moments and the sedate, more truthful moments. With a script like this, it would be very easy to fall into the trap of layering in one gimmick after another to get the cheap laughs, but Sullivan avoids this and the production is funnier for it. Matthew Floyd Miller, as Lord Edgar, etc., and Jamie Torcellini, as Lady Enid, etc. are brilliant! Despite the multiple roles that they play, each character is full realized with distinct physicalizations and mannerisms and both of the actors are able to switch from one character to the next – sometimes in the same conversation – seamlessly. Their timing and execution of the situational comedy is marvelous. Miller and Torcellini make a perfect comedy duo.
Even more impressive, was their ability to handle hiccups in the action. With any play involving this many costume changes, scenic elements and bits of shtick inevitably something will go wrong. A good actor recovers quickly and keeps the action going. A great actor is able to incorporate the goof into their business so that the audience begins to wonder if it wasn’t a part of the actor’s business all along. Miller is a great actor. He was able to transform a mustache that would only stay half-stuck to his face into a running gag that was one of the funniest parts of the evening. Torcellini, to his credit, never broke character as the audience laughed hysterically around him.
My only complaints are that the second act started out a little slow and at the end the story line got a little too convoluted, but all in all this production is definitely worth the price of admission.
*Coverage provided for the Culver City News