Yes, Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “The Mystery of Irma Vep” is silly and at times quite bawdy. But it’s also a lot of fun.
This latest version (the company last produced the Charles Ludlam comedy in 1999) is a hilarious quick-change horror spoof, featuring more than 80 costume changes as two actors portray eight characters over the course of two hours.
Charles Ludlam’s good-natured appreciation for the ridiculous (he even named the company he founded the Ridiculous Theatrical Company) is evident as the play goes from Gothic mansion to an Egyptian tomb and back to foggy England. The festive mood is instantly established as the curtains are drawn to reveal scenic designer Drew Boughton’s set, a whimsical recreation of a gothic library – think Disneyland’s “Haunted Mansion” – complete with “moving parts,” shall we say, to not give away some of the play’s surprises.
ATC favorites Bob Sorenson and Oliver Wadsworth divvy up the characters, moving between them with lightning speed. Sorenson reprises his roles as the mansion’s rigid housemistress, Jane; Egyptologist Lord Edgar, and an intruder. His performances are quick and over-the-top, exactly what the roles call for.
Wadsworth’s eyes and smiles beam as he volleys between Nicodemus, the physically challenged worker; Lady Enid, the mansion’s new mistress; and Alcazar, the Egyptian archaeologist.
The two are perfectly matched in character commitment and pacing. They appear to be having fun, and their enthusiasm is infectious.
Ludlam’s dialogue is filled with enough puns, double entendres and pop culture (even the “Star Wars” movies are referenced in this period piece) to please all adults; however, there are some PG-13 references that, while all in fun, are not appropriate for the kids. In one scene, for example, a mummy appears wearing a breastplate, with the emphasis on “breast.”
If you like a good laugh, and lots of them, don’t miss “Irma Vep.”