The Mystery of Irma Vep

Only the late Charles Ludlum, founding genius of NYC’s Ridiculous Theatre Company, could have combined so many hilariously affectionate Gothic send-ups in a single play: There are shades of Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, plus The Mummy, Falconcrest, The Werewolf, and many vampire tales. To make the madness madder, Ludlum designed the play as a quick-change tour de force, with two actors (Jim Hanna and Steven Shields) playing seven roles. The time is the 1880s, and the place is Mandacrest, the home of famous Egyptologist Lord Edgar (Shields), who has recently arrived with his new second wife, Lady Enid (Hanna). The portrait of the first Lady Hillcrest, Irma Vep (an anagram for Vampire), stares balefully down above the fireplace as the treacherous housekeeper, Jane (Shields), and the one-legged care-taker, Nicodemus (Hanna), discuss the family’s dark history. Wolves howl, thunder crashes, sliding panels slide, a portrait bleeds, costumes are changed at lightning speed and an ancient Egyptian princess (Hanna) is mysteriously resurrected. Director Andrew Crusse has assembled a brisk, funny rendition on the clever set by Shelley Delayne, and the two actors make broad comic hay of their several roles. The Hayworth, 2511 Wilshire Boulevard, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 4. (323) 969-1707. An Ark Theatre Company production.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Feb. 20. Continues through April 4, 2009

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