If you think it's ridiculous for TheatreWorks to stage The Mystery of Irma Vep, a show spoofing vampires, werewolves, mummies and 19th-century British romances during the holidays, you'd be right. But not in the way you think.
Charles Ludlam, a celebrated American playwright and actor, founded the Ridiculous Theatrical Company in New York in 1967. He wrote and produced some three-dozen plays, most of them brilliantly funny, and mostly performed in drag. (Hell, if Shakespeare could do it, he could do it.) According to a bio provided by TheatreWorks, Ludlam "loved gothic mysteries, preposterous opera, old movies, 19th-century melodrama — the good old theatrical stuff leaping from the stage before theater got tied down by realism."
The absence of realism is one reason director Murray Ross chose this play, originally produced in 1984, for this season.
"There is some truth to the rumor that the holidays are fatal for the theater," he says. "They tend to create homogenous, bland plays. This play is an alternative to, or maybe an antidote for, the holiday season."
And we all know that vampires are, like, totally hot right now. Granted, it's doubtful that the present-day teens drooling over the pale (but sparkly!) vampire Edward Cullen have seen films like Nosferatu and Dracula (not to mention toothy classics like Werewolf of London and The Wolf Man). But the themes are so familiar in popular culture that everyone should enjoy the spoof that is The Mystery of Irma Vep.
Says Ross: "The play is wonderfully plotted, always active, a little scary and very funny."
The script's wit also serves as a vehicle for two very talented local actors: Bob Rais, who played Touchstone two summers ago in TheatreWorks' As You Like It, and Michael Kane, who appeared as the hilarious London Constable — and earned the Pikes Peak Arts Council's Best Actor Award — in last holiday season's dark comedy The Lying Kind.
"They're both very funny guys," Ross says. "But they're even funnier in dresses. And more beautiful, I should add."
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.