‘Mystery of Irma Vep’ at Silver Spur Theater, Oct. 5-27;
A Comedy-Satire-Parody of Gothic Melodramas
Two actors, eight characters, 35 costume changes, two hours of laughter
“The Mystery of Irma Vep,” by Charles Ludlam opens Friday, Oct. 5 at the Salado Silver Spur Theater (108 Royal St.) and runs weekends through Oct. 27 . . . IF the two-member cast survives the 35 costume changes during the two-hour show.
“Irma Vep” is the definitive spoof of Gothic-horror melodramas, says Karen Ewton of Salado, who is co-directing the play with Melodee Lenz of Garland. “The New York Times called this show ‘far and away the funniest two hours on…stage’.”
“Begin with a sympathetic werewolf, a vampire and an Egyptian princess brought to life when her tomb is opened,” Lenz noted. “Add in the lightning-quick costume changes, a large number of sound cues, props and special effects and you get a comedy that has everything!”
The play is subtitled “A Penny Dreadful,” one of those illustrated thrillers of the Victorian era, half novel and half comic book, maudlin and melodramatic. “Vep” satirizes several theatrical and film genres, including, Victorian melodrama, farce and Alfred Hitchcock’s creepy romantic film “Rebecca” (1940).
“‘Irma Vep’ is a parody with a gimmick, since all the roles, half of them women, are played by two male actors,” explained Ewton, a local teacher who is a regular on the Silver Spur stage and a playwright as well.
“It makes for a hilarious set of broad caricature-izations and a breathtaking stampede of near-instant costume changes,” added Lenz, who wowed audiences in the recent Spur hit, “The Seven-Year Itch.”
Logan Kimes of Dallas and Grainger Esch, the Silver Spur’s Co-founder and Artistic Director, portray eight characters, cross-dressing as required for the rights to perform the production.
Admissions are $18 for adults; $15 for senior citizens, military personnel and students with ID; $10 for children aged 12 and under. Group rates are available. For reservations, call the box office at 254-947-3456. For directions or more play info, visit www.saladosilverspur.com.
Reservations strongly recommended for the 150-seat venue. Also, the Silver Spur Theater serves wine, beer, cider and expanded food choices at evening shows (only) at The Spuradical Social Club in its lobby. www.spuradicalssocialclub.net
Crucial Timing . . . Critical Teaming
When Ludlam wrote and starred in the award-winning play in 1984, he said: “Our slant was actually to take things very seriously, especially focusing on those things held in low esteem by society and revaluing them, giving them new meaning, new worth, by changing their context.”
The main characters of “Irma Vep” are connected to Mandacrest, a gloomy mansion on the edge of a murky English moor. The plot is far too complex and silly to describe. Suffice it to say that Mandacrest and its new mistress, Lady Enid, are haunted – perhaps literally – by the memory of Lord Edgar’s first wife, Irma Vep.
Also, there is something mysterious out there on the heath, and Lord Edgar’s interest in lycanthropy (person-to-wolf transformation) and Egyptology may hold the key to the mystery. Throw in ancient curses, spooky omens, werewolves, vampires and a mummy’s tomb for good measure, and you have a plot that is both complex and ridiculously funny.
Esch plays Lord Edgar Hillcrest, a bouncy upper-class twit, and the jealous housekeeper, Jane Twisden, a sour spinster with an icy demeanor and spindly legs. He also plays various ghostly intruders at Mandacrest, which may include Irma Vep herself.
Kimes is the weird, lecherous, hunchbacked Nicodemus, the all-purpose butler-and-swineherd, and Lady Enid, Lord Edgar’s new bride with the build of a linebacker. He also plays Alcazar, an Egyptian tomb robber straight out of Indiana Jones, and Pev Amri, a revived Egyptian princess.
Longtime Silver Spur Technical Director Tony Blackman of Belton has the challenging task of costume supervision — the challenge being that the costumes must be designed and tailored to accommodate the super-fast changes necessary to keep the onstage action moving.
Kimes, born and raised in show business, began performing in the circus at age three with his father Les Kimes, a leading comical animal trainers, and his mom, Rebecca Monroe, one of the all-time great vocalists. Les originated the Pork Chop Revue (Comedy Performing Pig Show).
At the age of 10, Logan’s passion for music and the literary arts blossomed. He developed a passion for acting by age 15 and became a part of such projects as film director Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” and the upcoming TV series “Bail Out.”
Esch, who founded this professional theater eight years ago, also has a circus and touring background with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, performing as a clown in the “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Once a street performer, he’s also appeared in films, commercials and innumerable stage productions, most recently as the day-dreaming Richard Sherman in “The Seven Year Itch,” which set Silver Spur attendance records.